How Much Sick Pay Do I Get in California?

Sick Pay In California Graphics
8
min read
November 9, 2021

It might be surprising to hear that the United States does not have any federal laws requiring businesses to give employees sick leave

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) entitles you to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for circumstances such as a severe illness or birth of a child. However, some states have passed laws that give eligible employees paid sick time off. One such example is California. 


Keep reading to find out what’s covered under the California sick pay law, who qualifies as an eligible employee, and answers to other FAQs.

California Sick Pay Basics

In 2014, California passed the Healthy Workplace Healthy Family Act (HWHFA) employment law entitling California employees who work 30 days for a single employer in a 12-month period to receive accrued sick pay. 


According to the paid sick leave law, employers must offer 1 hour of sick pay per 30 hours worked, and it takes 8 hours of accrued sick pay to count for 1 full day of leave. 


Employees must be allowed to accrue at least 24 hours (or 3 days) of sick leave per year. Furthermore, employers are required to let workers carry over unused sick leave to the next year, and they cannot cap rollover hours at anything less than 6 days or 48 hours per year.


Employers have the right to cap your sick leave use at 24 hours (or 3 days) each year. In other words, if you need to take an amount of leave above 3 days, your employer gets to decide whether it’s paid or unpaid.


However, most California employers are generous when it comes to capping sick leave. On average, private employers in the state offer 10 days of paid sick leave per year.


It’s also up to your employer if they want to front-load your sick pay or let it accrue. 


If your employer front-loads sick pay, that means they provide you all 3 required days at the beginning of the year on your first pay stub. If they use an accrual method, you earn your 3 days in increments over the year based on hours worked.

Using California Sick Pay

Once you start working in California, you begin accruing sick pay immediately. However, the law permits employers to institute a 90-day waiting period, which means you can’t start using sick pay until your 90th day of employment. Many employers are often more flexible though.


You can request sick pay from your employer in writing or verbally. Furthermore, your employer cannot require you to find a replacement—to cover your work—before you take your sick leave. When using sick pay, you receive your full rate of pay. 


It’s important to know that your employer cannot fire or punish you for using the sick days given to you by California state law.


You can use your sick pay hours for:



Additionally, if you are a victim of domestic abuse, sexual assault, or stalking, you can use your sick pay for: 


Using Sick Pay for Family Members

You may encounter a situation where you are healthy, but you need to care for a loved one who’s sick. Under the California Sick Pay law, you can also use your paid sick leave to tend to the needs of a family member experiencing any of the above conditions.


Qualifying family members include children, spouses, registered domestic partners, parents, siblings, parents or spouses of registered domestic partners, grandparents, and grandchildren.

Who Qualifies for California Sick Pay?

Employees who began working on or after July 1, 2015, qualify for sick pay as long as they work 30 days within 12 months of being hired. Paid sick leave (PSL) is available for most employees, including full-time, part-time, and temporary workers


If an employer had a sick leave policy established before July 1, 2015 it can be grandfathered in if it meets the following requirements:


  1. Employees accrue at least 1 day (8 hours) of paid sick leave or PTO within 3 months of employment per year
  2. Employees are eligible to earn at least 3 days (24 hours) of paid sick leave or PTO within 9 months of employment


All sick leave policies written after July 1, 2015 must comply with California’s Sick Pay Law.

California Paid Sick Leave Exemptions

Although most exempt and nonexempt employees qualify for paid sick leave under California state law, there are a few exceptions. 


Specifically, the following employees do not fall under California laws for regular employees. They are not entitled to the paid sick days as detailed by the Healthy Workplace Healthy Family Act:


California Sick Leave and Remote Workers

Sick leave entitlements are based on where the employee works. In other words, if a business located in Nevada has employees that work remotely from California, that business needs to adhere to California’s sick pay requirements for those employees. 


For small businesses employing a remote workforce, knowing each employee’s local labor and paid leave laws is essential. If you’re an employer who’s unsure which rules apply to your employees, you can use services such as Hourly’s HR Outsourcing to find answers to all your questions.

Additional California Sick Pay Laws by City

On top of California state sick leave policies, several cities have enacted sick leave ordinances with more expansive employee rights.


If you live in one of these cities, you may be entitled to additional rights or extended eligibility.


Here’s a closer look at local laws regarding paid sick leave in California.

Berkeley

Emeryville

Los Angeles

Oakland

San Diego

San Francisco

Santa Monica

Can My Employer Combine Sick Pay and PTO in California?

Yes. If your employer already gives you Paid Time Off (PTO) and allows you to use it for sick leave, that counts as your sick leave time. In other words, California law does not give you additional sick days as long as your vacation time is the same amount as you would have received under state law. 

Can I Cash Out California Sick Pay?

No. Unlike some PTO programs, sick pay is not considered a wage under California state law. You cannot cash out unused sick pay for money, and if you are terminated, your employer is not required to pay you for accrued unused sick pay.


Can My Employer Make Me Come to Work if I Use Sick Pay?

No. It’s against the law for employers to deny paid sick leave in California as long as you have acquired the time. Likewise, your employer cannot retaliate against you (by terminating your employment or filing a complaint, for example) for using your paid sick leave.


What Am I Entitled to Under SB 95?

California Senate Bill 95 (SB 95) was signed into law on March 19, 2021, adding additional COVID-19 paid sick leave requirements for California employers.


In particular, the new law stated that public and private California employers with more than 25 employees had to offer up to 80 hours of additional unpaid sick leave for COVID-19 reasons from Jan. 1, 2021 to Sep. 30, 2021. 


California employees using sick leave when the Sep. 30 deadline hits are allowed to take the full amount of entitled leave even if it goes past the deadline. However, after Sep. 30, 2021, employers are not required to offer additional paid sick leave for pandemic-related reasons. 


After Sep. 30, 2021, employees can still use regular accrued sick pay for the following COVID-19 related reasons:



If you have used up your paid sick leave hours, you can still take time off for medical reasons, but your employer is not required to pay you for it. It’s best to check with your employer to see if they offer extended sick leave or PTO benefits in response to the COVID-19 global pandemic.


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