California Employers’ Paid Sick Leave Obligations Set to Increase in 2024

By Kevin Rivera on October 10, 2023

Governor Newsom has signed into law SB 616, increasing the number of paid sick days that California employers will be required to provide their employees starting next year.

Under existing law, most employers must provide 24 hours or three days of paid sick leave to their employees every year. Starting January 1st, 2024, this obligation will increase to 40 hours or 5 days of paid sick leave per year. The law also raises the cap employers can place on paid sick leave and the number of sick days an employee can roll over to the next year.

The sick leave law permits several different methods for employers to choose from when providing paid sick days. SB 616 will impact each of those methods. The most commonly used methods are the standard accrual method and the frontloading or “lump sum” method. SB 616 impacts each of those as follows:

Standard Accrual Method

Under the standard accrual method, an employee earns one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked, with any accrued but unused time carrying over to the following year of employment.

An employer can currently cap employees’ total accrued amount of paid sick leave at 48 hours or six days. SB 616 increases this threshold to a total of 80 hours or 10 days.

Frontloading or Lump Sum Method

Under the existing frontloading or lump sum method, employers can avoid the accrual and carryover provisions by granting the full amount of paid sick leave (24 hours or three days) at the time of hire, and then at the beginning of each year of employment, calendar year, or 12-month period.

Under SB 616, employers who use this method must frontload 40 hours or five days of paid sick leave at the time of hire and every year thereafter. 

Under any of the methods for providing sick leave, employers can currently limit the amount of sick leave their employees can use in a year to 24 hours or three days per year. SB 616 raises this threshold to 40 hours or five days in each year of employment.

Employer Action Items:

  • Start updating your paid sick leave policies and have them ready to roll out to your employees by January 1st of next year.
  • If it has been a while since you updated your paid sick leave policy, don’t forget that California this year updated the definition of covered “family members” for whom employees can take sick leave, to include “designated persons.” A designated person means a person identified by the employee at the time the employee requests paid sick days. An employer may limit an employee to one designated person per 12-month period.
  • Don’t forget that you cannot request a doctor’s note or other proof when employees take available sick leave. Employees are essentially on the honor system. You have to take their word for it that they are using it for a legitimate purpose.
  • A recent court decision now allows employees to bring a Private Attorneys General Act (PAGA) claim against their employer for violations of the sick leave law. Employers will therefore be more exposed to private lawsuits over sick leave than they have in the past.
  • Importantly, the determination as to whether an employer has committed a sick leave violation will likely include an examination of whether the employer has compliant policies in place, so it is critically important that your policy is compliant with the law.

Posted in

CA Employee Handbooks, Paid Sick Leave, Wage & Hour Issues