New California sick leave rules go into effect soon

Almost all California employers must offer employees paid sick time under the new “Healthy Workplaces, Healthy Families Act,” which goes into effect on July 1, 2015. How much time must be offered depends on whether employees are given leave right away, or whether it accrues over time worked. 

The new law applies to almost all employers, regardless of size. There are only very limited exceptions, such as for employers subject to collective bargain agreements with unions. All employees who work for covered employers for at least 30 days must be given either: (1) three days of “frontloaded” sick leave that they can use immediately; or (2) one hour of sick time that accrues for each 30 hours the employees work. Employers may cap annual accrual at six days (i.e., 48 hours), and exempt employees are presumed to accrue at a rate of 40 hours per week. However, the accrual option is confusing given that it requires employers to allow accrued-but-unused sick time to carry over from year-to-year, yet it still allows employers to cap use of sick time at only three days, and it does not require employers to pay out accrued-but-unused sick time upon termination. So if an employer using the accrual option chooses to cap sick leave use to three days a year, effectively that is all an employee will ever receive, regardless how many hours he or she accrues. Exactly how the new law will work will hopefully become clearer after it goes into effect.