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  • Writer's pictureNathalee Jennings

California's Paid Sick Leave Law Expands from Three to Five Days: What Employers Need to Know

On October 4, 2023, Governor Gavin Newsom made headlines as he signed SB 616 into law, further expanding California's existing paid sick leave law. Where employees were previously entitled to three days off, they will now be able to take five days, a change that advocates argue better addresses the needs of the modern workforce. Under existing law, an employer has no obligation under these provisions to allow an employee’s total accrual of paid sick leave to exceed 48 hours or 6 days but this bill would increase those accrual thresholds for paid sick leave to 112 hours or 14 days. The new provisions are set to take effect on January 1, 2024.

What SB 616 Means for Employees

This legislation is a significant boon for California's workforce. The increase in days recognizes the potential need for extended recovery time from illness, the realities of dealing with the health needs of family members or addressing one's own mental well-being. With the ongoing challenges posed by public health crises, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, the ability to take a longer sick leave without financial repercussions can be pivotal in ensuring that workers don’t feel pressured to return to work prematurely.

Implications for Employers

Cost Considerations: While most employers understand the importance of providing sick leave, the expansion will have financial implications, particularly for small businesses. The two additional days represent a direct cost in wages and potential indirect costs if temporary replacements or overtime pay for other employees are required.

Administration and Record Keeping: Employers will need to adjust their record-keeping to ensure accurate tracking of the five-day sick leave. This might require updates to payroll systems or manual record-keeping practices.

Workforce Management: Businesses will need to be prepared for potential increases in sick leave utilization. This could mean developing more flexible staffing strategies or having a pool of temporary workers to call on as needed.

Communication: It will be essential for businesses to communicate these changes to their employees, ensuring everyone is aware of their rights under the updated law.

Steps for Compliance by January 1, 2024

  1. Review and Revise Policies: Employers should promptly review and revise their existing sick leave or paid time off (PTO) policies to align with the new mandate.

  2. Training: HR teams and management should be trained about the new provisions, ensuring that they are aware of the changes and can address any questions or concerns raised by employees.

  3. Update Systems: Payroll and HRIS systems may need adjustments to accommodate the extra days and ensure accurate tracking and reporting.

  4. Communication Strategy: It's advisable for employers to develop a communication strategy to inform employees about the changes. This can be done through meetings, emails, or updating the employee handbook.

  5. Plan for Staffing Needs: Given the potential increase in sick leave usage, employers should assess their staffing strategies and consider backup or contingency plans.

  6. Stay Informed: As with all legal changes, there may be subsequent clarifications or guidance issued. Employers should stay informed and be prepared to make further adjustments if necessary.

  7. Determine if any local PSL ordinances applicable to your organization are preempted by the new law.

In conclusion, while SB 616 represents a significant win for employees across California, ensuring a safer and more supportive work environment, it also requires due diligence on the part of employers. The key for businesses will be early preparation, clear communication, and a commitment to supporting the well-being of their workforce. If need help navigating this and other new laws, contact JenningsHRS. Make sure you are subscribed to get up-to-date information on employment/HR topics directly to your inbox.

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