california paid sick leave laws

California Paid Sick Leave Law - What Employers & Workers Need to Know

In 2014, California passed a new law requiring businesses to provide paid sick leave to employees.

The statewide Healthy Workplace Healthy Families Act (HWHFA) builds upon federal paid sick leave regulations but with more advantages to employees in the coastal state.

The HWHFA act specifies that any employee of a California business who works more than 30 days a year must receive paid sick leave.

Before the Act's passage, employers set their own sick leave policies. And with this Act, California made itself a name as the second US state to mandate paid sick leave.

Two years later, in 2016, SB No. 3 extended the paid sick leave requirements to employers of home supportive services providers. Further, the amendment also specified new minimum wage standards for all employees.

A California remote manager at the beach takes a call to coordinate employee sick leave

The HWHFA requires employers to post notices about employees' rights regarding sick leave throughout the workplace. They must also provide information about the Act at the time of hire.

In addition, employers must give full transparency regarding the amount of sick time each employee has available. The law specifically requires that employers note accrued sick time on pay stubs.

In short, the California Labor Commissioner has made it easier for employees to be taken care of while they rest and recover.

Goals of California's sick leave law

The main goal of the sick leave law is to keep employees healthy. Further, it provides ample paid time off to seek preventative care.

A secondary goal is to reduce sickness overall and, ultimately, limit the number of sick days required for all employees in the workplace.

The HWHFA benefits employees, their families, and California employers all at the same time.

Team members can stay home to care for their families and don't feel they must come to work when they are sick, "stopping the spread" in the workplace. Of course, a healthy employee also means increased productivity.

California Healthy Workplace Healthy Families Act

The HWHFA allows employees paid time off for their personal sickness or health care needs and to take time off to care for others.

According to Better Balance, team members can use the time off for members of their immediate family, such as children, spouses, registered domestic partners, parents, parents of a spouse or registered domestic partner, grandchildren, grandparents, or siblings.

Most Californian employees are eligible for paid sick leave

Under the HWHFA, all full-time, part-time, and temporary employees who work at least 30 days a year are eligible, with some exceptions.

These exceptions, according to the California Department of Industrial Relations and Better Balance, include:

  • Employees covered by a collective bargaining agreement

  • Some employees of commercial air carriers

  • Some municipal, state, and federal government employees

The law applies to exempt and non-exempt employees and businesses of all sizes.

How businesses calculate leave

Employers have two options when determining the amount of leave.

The first option is the accrual method. The HWHFA specifies that covered employees accrue one hour of paid leave for every 30 hours they work.

An amendment allows employers to establish a different accrual equation as long as accrual is regular. It also specifies that all employees have at least 24 hours of accrued sick time or other paid time off no later than the 120th day of employment of each calendar year or other 12-month basis.

The second option is the lump sum method. mployers using this method must provide at least 24 hours or three days of paid sick leave annually.

If the employees receive the lump sum allocation at the beginning of the year, the employer is not required to allow the employee to carry over unused leave.

Under both methods, employers may opt to give employees more paid sick time, but not less than the law requires.

Employees can use the sick time in full day or partial day increments. Further, legal protections mean they can't incur disciplinary action for using their sick days.

Employers must pay regular wages to employees on sick leave

Under the labor code, employers must pay team members at their typical pay rate when they take sick leave.

For non-exempt employees, employers should pay based on the hours taken in that specific workweek or on a 90-day average. The calculation does not include overtime hours.

The law assumes that exempt employees work 40 hours a week, regardless of the number of hours they work. An exception is an exempt employee hired to work less than full-time.

Employers do not need to pay out unused sick leave if employees leave

Employees who leave the company do not receive cash for their unused but accrued sick time.

An exception occurs if employers include paid sick time as part of their overall paid time off policy. In that case, the employee receives payment.

If an employee rejoins the company within a year of resignation, the employer must reinstate the paid sick days.

Unused sick time sometimes carries over into a new year

Employees may sometimes carry over unused sick time.

California employers who choose the accrual method must allow employees to carry over unused time. The rollover in a new calendar year can be up to 48 hours.

Businesses that provide the lump sum at the beginning of a year do not have to allow carryovers.

What paid sick leave may be used for

The purpose of the HWHFA is to keep families and team members well. Qualifying employees may opt to take paid sick leave for various reasons under this general guideline. Various examples include:

  • Getting preventative care for themselves or taking family members to these appointments

  • Caring for sick family members

  • Getting a COVID-19 vaccine, recovering from COVID-related sickness, or quarantine mandates

  • Recovering after domestic violence, stalking, or assault

Employers may not deny sick leave requests — even under short notice

Under most cases listed in sick leave ordinances, an employer must allow the sick leave request.

However, in cases where the employee could have reasonably foreseen the need for taking time off (such as a previously-scheduled doctor's appointment), the employer can refuse the request.

In any situation, the employer cannot require that the employee find a replacement as a condition for taking off time.

Additionally, the employer may not discipline the employee in any way for using this benefit.

In all cases, an employee may request paid sick time in writing or orally.

Employers may combine time off and sick leave in certain circumstances

Employers may combine paid sick leave and other annual time off in certain circumstances. However, the employee must receive at least the number of sick days the law requires.

For example, some employers offer a bank of 15 days of paid time off (PTO) annually to cover vacation, holidays, and sick time. In this case, the employer must allow the employee to take at least three of them as sick time.

COVID-19 supplemental paid sick leave

On February 19, 2022, California Governor Newsom signed a Supplemental Paid Sick Leave law to cover COVID-19 issues. That law provides up to 80 hours of additional paid sick leave if employees can't work because of COVID. It applies retroactively to January 1, 2022, and remains in effect until September 30, 2022.

The Supplemental Paid Sick Leave law differs from the permanent HWHFA because employees are eligible for the time immediately, rather than accruing it. Another difference is employers may require employees to use other paid time off, such as vacation time, before using the supplemental paid sick leave.

Examples of when team members might use the supplemental time include:

  • They are isolating or quarantining or caring for family members who are isolating or quarantining

  • Their child's care facility is closed because of a COVID emergency

  • They or a family member have a vaccination appointment, or they are unable to work or telework because of the vaccine's side effects

OSHA Emergency Temporary Standards (ETS)

California employers with more than 100 team members also must follow the OSHA Emergency Temporary Standards, which protect health care workers. OSHA estimates that the ETS will prevent more than 6,500 deaths.

The standards require employers in health care industries to mandate vaccinations or weekly COVID tests and masks.

It also requires that employees notify employers of positive home tests and that employers remove staff who test positive from the workplace until they meet the criteria to return to work.

California sick leave summary

California state law requires employers, including households employing service workers, to provide at least 24 hours of annual sick leave.

Companies also can develop sick leave policies that provide additional time off. Companies must pay team members at their regular rate, and legislation specifies how employers must calculate that pay rate.

The state grants paid sick time policies for illness or preventative care for employees and their families. Companies must grant requests for paid sick leave if the leave is for the purposes described in the law. Companies with questions about the law can consult a copy of it and its amendments.

Hubstaff is essential in helping companies comply with state labor laws such as the HWHFA. Hubstaff contains many human resource features, such as payroll tracking, employee monitoring, and employee scheduling.

These solutions help simplify human resource functions, utilization, and productivity to create a more efficient business overall. In addition, our software allows supervisors to manage employee time-off requests easily.

Hubstaff is a great solution to help California companies comply with sick leave laws and federal paid sick leave mandates. Sign up for a 14-day trial or schedule a demo today.

Important Notice: The information in this article is general in nature and you should consider whether the information is appropriate to your needs. Legal and other matters referred to in this article are of a general nature only and are based on Hubstaff’s interpretation of laws existing at the time and should not be relied on in place of professional advice. Hubstaff is not responsible for the content of any site owned by a third party that may be linked to this article and no warranty is made by us concerning the suitability, accuracy or timeliness of the content of any site that may be linked to this article. Hubstaff disclaims all liability (except for any liability which by law cannot be excluded) for any error, inaccuracy, or omission from the information contained in this article and any loss or damage suffered by any person directly or indirectly through relying on this information.

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