California Sick Leave Law Q&A

California Sick Leave Law FAQ
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How does the new Sick Leave Law impact Employers?

On July 1, 2015, the new California sick leave law took effect. The new sick leave law places several requirements on businesses. This article is intended to provide a comprehensive resource for human resource personnel and payroll managers who want to make sure that their company is in compliance with the new laws. Employers are required to provide sick leave to employees once they have worked 30 days for the business. Employers must track sick leave accrual, report the balance to the employees and pay for any sick leave taken during the period.

How much sick leave should an employee get each year?

The California sick leave law allows for two ways for employers to provide sick leave benefit. The employer can use the accrual method, where the employee earns the sick leave and accrues it based on hours worked. They can also award sick leave up front at the beginning of the year. With the accrual method, the employee earns 1 hour of sick leave for every 30 hours of work. The employee can be restricted from taking sick leave until after they have worked a probationary timeframe of 90 days. Under the accrual method, the employee is allowed to roll unused sick days over to the next year. Businesses using the accrual method must provide at least 6 days of sick leave (48 hours) per year for employees. The law provides that employees can also roll up to 6 days or 48 hours of unused sick leave.

If the employer chooses to award sick leave up front, then they must provide 3 days or 24 hours of sick leave to employees. Likewise, they are required to roll up to 3 days of unused sick leave to the next year. The payoff for employees is that they get to use the sick leave before it has been earned in the current year.

How much does the employer need to allow to be rolled over from one year to another?

Under the accrual rate, the employee can roll up to 6 days or 48 hours to the next year if no sick leave has been used. Under the upfront method, employees can roll up to 3 days or 24 hours of sick leave, providing it has not been used. Employers are allowed to provide more sick leave than the law provides, but cannot provide less.

Who qualifies for earned sick leave?

Every employee who works in California is covered, with only 5 exceptions. Part-time employees, seasonal employees, temporary and full-time employees are all covered under the sick leave law. Once an employee has worked for at least 30 days and 30 hours, then they can start earning sick leave.

What can sick leave be used for?

Sick leave can be used for preventative care or diagnostic care. It can be used to treat existing health conditions. It can also be used for specified purposes for victims of domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking. Victims of these violent crimes can use sick leave pay to seek relief through restraining orders, injunctive relief, or seeking safety for them or their children. Employees can use sick leave for themselves or to help with a family member.

Who is defined as family under the California Sick Leave Law?

A parent, child, spouse, registered domestic partner, sibling, grandparent and grandchild are considered family. Additionally, family can be biological, adopted or foster. Someone who stood in loco parentis when the employee was a minor is also considered family.

Who decides how many hours an employee gets to take?

The employee gets to decide if they are taking a full or partial sick day and can inform the employer. However, employers can limit sick leave to a minimum of 2 hours taken per incident.

How does the waiting period or probationary period play into sick leave?

Employees start earning sick leave after 30 days of work, however, there is a 90 day waiting period before they can take sick leave. If an employee works for more than 30 days and has earned sick leave, but has not worked for 90 days, the employer can prevent the employee from using sick leave. If the employee leaves before the 90 day period is over, they are not entitled to the earned sick leave and will forfeit it.

What if the employee returns to work for the employer during the 12 month period?

If the employee returns to work for the same employer, then they are entitled to any earned, but unused sick leave from the same 12 month period.

What if a business already has a PTO policy in place. Does that business have to provide additional sick leave?

As long as the PTO policy meets the minimum sick leave requirements, the employer does not have to provide additional sick leave days. PTO can be reported as sick days available.

How does the business need to report the sick leave?

Employers need to report sick leave balances to employees on their pay stub or on a document issued the same day as the paystub. SwipeClock can help businesses to track and report sick leave to employees.

For more information on the steps that businesses need to take to maintain compliance with the California Sick Leave Laws, check out our step by step resource. You can also find more information about other labor laws, including the Federal Overtime Law on our website.

How can I track and report sick leave accrual?

SwipeClock’s timekeeping and workforce management technology provides accurate reporting and tracking of employee sick leave and other PTO. Use our software to report up to date sick leave accrual and balances, manage employee time off, and schedule FTE. Talk to a SwipeClock Partner or fill out the form below for more information.

Additional Resources:

California Sick Leave Department of Industrial Relations FAQ

California Sick Leave Law Senate Bill Chapter 4:

Written by Annemaria Duran. Last updated October 24, 2016

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