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If you’ve been injured on the job and qualify for workers’ compensation, your employer cannot force you to use your paid time off (PTO). However, they may permit — or even encourage — the use of PTO while you’re receiving workers’ compensation benefits. Taking PTO during this time can close the gap between your benefits and your usual salary.

If your employer is insisting that you max out your PTO before receiving workers’ comp benefits, seek advice from a qualified South Carolina workers’ compensation lawyer. An attorney can advise you on your rights and the best course of action for your specific situation.

Workers’ Compensation vs. PTO: What’s the Difference?

To understand how PTO interacts with workers’ compensation benefits, it’s useful to understand the difference. Here’s an overview of how each is applicable after a work injury:


Aspect PTO Workers’ Comp
Purpose For personal rest, medical appointments, family matters, vacations. For injuries or illnesses related to work.
Coverage Full salary or wages during time off. Medical expenses, wage replacement (two-thirds of average weekly wages) during time off, and the cost of physical or vocational rehabilitation.
Eligibility Varies by company, not mandatory under SC law. Generally required by law for employers with four or more employees. Covers workers with on-the-job-injuries and work-related illnesses.
Application Process Based on company policy, usually with the approval of a supervisor. South Carolina requires immediate reporting of the injury, and allows up to two years to file a claim.
Benefit Duration Based on company policy, often a few weeks per year. Coverage includes up to 500 weeks of compensation, based on the injury.
Impact on Employee Provides flexibility for personal needs without financial penalty. Supports workers financially and medically after a work-related injury or illness.


Options for Time Off From Work for an On-the-Job Injury or Illness

In South Carolina, there are three options available to make up for lost wages after a work-related injury or illness:

  • Use Sick Leave: Workers’ comp covers only two-thirds of your lost income. You may opt to use your sick leave, annual leave, or other available paid time off to receive your full salary while you recover. If you exhaust all your sick or paid time off before you’re able to return to work, you’ll then qualify for the two-thirds wage replacement that workers’ compensation provides.
  • Forego Sick Time: You may choose not to use your sick leave or other forms of paid time off. If that’s the case, you’ll receive only two-thirds of your average weekly earnings from workers’ comp. Wage replacement benefits have a set limit determined by the nature of your injury or illness.
  • Opt for Pro-Rated Sick Time: If you’re eligible for paid leave, another option is to use a portion of your leave to supplement the two-thirds wage replacement from workers’ comp. This option ensures you receive the equivalent of your full salary. This pro-rated use of your leave must adhere to the formula determined by the Department of Administration.

What Does South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Cover?

Your workers’ compensation benefits should pay for the following if your injury happened while performing work-related duties:

  • Immediate medical care or primary care
  • Surgery
  • Hospitalization
  • Medical supplies
  • Prescriptions
  • Physical therapy
  • Travel expenses related to receiving treatment
  • Nurse Case Manager (NCM)
  • Some lost wages
  • Vocational rehabilitation

What Should You Do if Your Employer Requires You to Use PTO?

Your employer can suggest you use all of your PTO before tapping into workers’ compensation. However, they can’t make you use PTO instead of claiming workers’ comp benefits. If you feel pressured into using your PTO, take these actions:

  • Document Everything: Keep detailed records of all communications with your employer regarding the use of PTO and workers’ compensation.
  • Consult an Attorney: Reach out to an attorney who focuses on workers’ compensation law. With over 300 years of combined legal experience, our team at Joye Law Firm can offer tailored advice based on your situation. We can help you understand your rights and outline the best strategy to challenge your employer’s actions to get you the compensation you deserve.
  • Report Unlawful Pressure: File a formal complaint with the South Carolina Human Affairs Commission (HAC) or the South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Commission (WCC). These agencies can investigate and take corrective action against employers violating workers’ compensation regulations.

Let Us Advocate for Your Fair Treatment Under South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Law

Workers’ compensation is designed to offer support and financial aid to employees who get injured at work. Although separate programs, it is sometimes beneficial for injured workers to use both PTO and workers’ comp benefits simultaneously. However, you can’t be forced to use your personal time off for an injury that workers’ comp insurance should cover.

Our lawyers at Joye Law Firm know the unfair tactics employers may use to get out of paying workers’ comp. We believe it is our duty to stand up for your rights to fair treatment. We can help you file a claim with the HAC or WCC, and appeal any denials of your benefits based on PTO use.

Contact us today for a free case review and let us help you get the benefits you are entitled to.

About the Author

Since 1968, the South Carolina personal injury and workers’ compensation attorneys of Joye Law Firm have been committed to securing compensation for accident and injury victims. Our compassionate and dedicated lawyers have over 300 years of combined litigation experience, and many of them have been recognized as South Carolina Super Lawyers. For many years, our South Carolina personal injury law firm has been listed with an AV rating in the prestigious Martindale-Hubbell legal directory.

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