Your new employee starts work on September 1, 2015. On December 1, 2015, they request several days paid sick leave. Your first reaction may be to say “not yet” but under a new law known as the Healthy Families Act of 2014 (which goes into effect July 15, 2015), you will be required to provide paid sick leave to certain California employees who have worked 30 days. In other words, once your employee works 30 days, as an employer, you are required to provide sick time of up to 3 days. Of course, an employer can give more days if they choose, but they must give at least 3 days.
How does the Healthy Families Act impact employers?
Those employers who previously required a waiting period for employees to take advantage of sick leave or earned time off (ETO) are now required to provide a leave policy to employees who have only been in their employ for 30 days. This can create an interesting dilemma because many employers previously would have required their employees to wait a standard probationary period of 90 days before accruing benefits such as earned time off. Note that there is a difference between accruing and using these sick days.
Of importance for California employers, employment policies relating to sick leave will have to be re-written to be in compliance with this new legislation.
Limits to paid sick leave in CA
There are limitations, however. Employers are allowed to limit an employee’s use of paid sick leave to 3 days in each year of employment and may put a maximum cap on total accrual of 6 days. Employers are also given somewhat of a grace period to begin implementing this new rule as the hidden costs associated with offering ETO to more employees may impact the bottom line.
Again, the effective date for employers to begin providing the paid sick leave benefit is July 1, 2015.
The law itself goes into great detail describing the many public policy reasons to support it. Some of the more notable explanations include the fact that low-income employees are less likely to be offered paid sick time by their employers and the fact that providing employees time-off to attend to their own health care and the care of their family actually leads to a more productive workforce, better retention and a reduction in the likelihood that employees will come to work sick which is linked to decreased productivity. The law points out that many working adults also have significant elder care responsibilities which might require them to take more time off leading to increased workplace discipline.
Exceptions to the paid sick leave law
As with most legislation, there are also some exceptions which you can discuss with your experienced employment lawyer: An employee or construction worker covered by a valid collective bargaining agreement which expressly provides for wages, hours of work, working conditions, etc. is considered sufficiently protected by that agreement and therefore not covered by this law. Secondly, in-home health care workers are not covered.
The law contains many different nuances, such as detailed record-keeping and notice requirements, including a new poster requirement. The law also contains penalties for noncompliance. As with any new legislation that has a real world impact on the workplace, it may be advisable to have your sick leave and ETO policies reviewed by a qualified employment law attorney.