On October 4, Governor Newsom signed S.B. 616 which significantly expands the State’s existing paid sick leave laws (codified at Sections 245.5246, and 246.5 of the Labor Code) by increasing the number of paid sick days that California employers must offer to employees as well as accrual options. These new requirements go into effect on January 1, 2024, and are similar to those already in effect in Oakland, San Francisco, Berkeley, Santa Monica, Emeryville, Los Angeles, and San Diego.

As a refresher, California’s Paid Sick Leave Law (PSL) requires employers to provide a minimum amount of paid sick leave to their employees, which is generally at the rate of 1 hour for every 30 hours worked, subject to certain eligibility, use, and accrual limitations.  An employee is eligible to take paid sick leave if the employee has worked for the same employer for at least 30 days within the same year, and has completed a 90-day employment period.  As of the 90th day, employees may use accrued paid sick days pursuant to their employer’s stated policies as long as consistent with PSL requirements. However, while employees start accruing upon hire or the effective date of the law, there can still be a use restriction until the 90th day of employment.

S.B. 616 makes the following updates to California’s PSL:

  • Increases the amount of paid sick leave employers are required to provide to employees from 3 days (24 hours) to 5 days (40 hours).  This increase would apply regardless of whether an employer opts to accrue or frontload paid sick time.
  • Defines “full amount of leave” as 5 days (40 hours).
  • Increases the current rolling accrual cap (or maximum accrual cap) from 6 days (48 hours) to 10 days (80 hours).

One little known aspect of the PSL’s current accrual requirement is that if the employer uses a different method than 1 hour per 30 worked, then the entire amount must be available for use by the 120th calendar day of employment.  Under S.B. 616, with the same scenario, all 5 days must be available for use by the 200th day of employment. 

Also, keep in mind that to the extent that local laws provide more protection, those local laws still apply. California law is the floor, cities may provide additional benefits.

As an employer doing business in California, it is imperative to follow California’s paid sick leave mandates, because employers may now be sued to enforce California’s PSL under PAGA for failure to pay paid sick leave at the regular rate. Employers that may already face claims for failing to pay meal period and rest break premiums or overtime at the regular rate of pay are especially vulnerable to sick pay claims, as this is an easy add-on argument.

For further information, guidance from the Department of Industrial Relations about California’s existing paid sick leave law can be found here.  This comprehensive chart of California’s State and City paid sick leave laws provides local guidance; we will update this chart in accordance with S.B. 616 in January 2024.