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How Does Paid Sick Leave Work in California?

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As an employer or employee in the state of California, it's important to understand the finer details associated with the applicable paid sick leave laws.

Not only do employers have to comply with the state sick leave law, but they must also contend with any ordinances for paid sick leave in their local jurisdiction.

The State of California Department of Industrial Relations provided guidance on California's Paid Sick Leave law was amended earlier this year by Senate Bill 3.  

Under the Healthy Workplace Healthy Family Act of 2014:

"An employee who, on or after July 1, 2015, works in California for 30 or more days within a year from the beginning of employment, is entitled to paid sick leave. Employees, including part-time and temporary employees, will earn at least one hour of paid leave for every 30 hours worked. Accrual begins on the first day of employment or July 1, 2015, whichever is later."

In addition to the above, the amendment now permits employers to frontload paid sick leave, rather than requiring the use of an accrual system.

With the above in mind, employers and employees must also become familiar with several usage related details under the state law:

  • Employees can begin using accrued paid sick days starting on the 90th day of employment. When frontloaded, employers can restrict usage until 120 days.
  • Employees have the opportunity to request paid sick days verbally, such as by contacting the HR department, or in writing.
  • Employers are not permitted to require employees to find a replacement if they want to use a paid sick day.
  • Employees are permitted to take paid sick leave in relation to their own health, to provide care for a family member, or if they are a victim of domestic violence, stalking, or sexual assault.

Employers should also be aware that some local laws allow employees to use paid sick leave for non-biological relationships, such as those resulting from adoption, foster care, or step-relationships. In some cases, it's permitted to use paid sick leave to care for a "designated person."

Employer Compliance

California employers are required to take several key steps in order to comply with the Healthy Workplace Healthy Family Act of 2014 (AB 1522). These steps include:

  • Display a paid sick leave poster in an area where all employees have access.
  • Provide all new hires with written notice of their sick leave rights.
  • Allow any eligible employee to use sick days.
  • Provide a running total of how many sick days an employee has available, such as on every pay stub. It can also be shared via a separate document to be issued the same day as a paycheck.
  • Keep detailed records noting when and how many sick days have been earned and used over the past three years.

Are All Employees Eligible for Paid Sick Leave?

There are limited exceptions for some employees that may make them exempt from the state paid sick leave law. These may include:

  • An employee who is covered by a collective bargaining agreement.
  • A person who works for an air carrier as a cabin crew member, as long as they receive time off equivalent to what's outlined by the law.

Please note that most employees are not exempt from paid sick leave, so be careful when reviewing exceptions.

If you have any questions about the paid sick leave law, or if you're wondering where you fit in, check out the State of California's frequently asked questions about paid sick leave.


California employees and employers should understand the details associated with the Healthy Workplace Healthy Family Act of 2014 (AB 1522) as amended by Senate Bill 3.

This law goes a long way in providing employees with a high level benefit, but the implementation of the provisions can be complex especially where local ordinances also apply.

Read More: California Payroll Requirements


This information is provided for informational purposes only, and is not intended to be tax or legal advice. Consult your licensed attorney, accountant, or other tax professional to discuss your particular facts, circumstances, and how these opportunities might apply to your business.