The Payroll Blog

News, tips, and advice for small business owners

Return to Work Checklist for California Employers

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Do you operate a small business in California and are wondering how you can safely return to work? 

Considerations for California Employers While Preparing to Bring Employees Back to Work. 

Update, July 13, 2020: Effective July 13, 2020, ALL counties must close indoor operations in these sectors:

  • Dine-in restaurants
  • Wineries and tasting rooms
  • Movie theaters 
  • Family entertainment centers (for example: bowling alleys, miniature golf, batting cages and arcades)
  • Zoos and museums
  • Cardrooms

Additionally, bars, brewpubs, breweries, and pubs must close all operations both indoor and outdoor statewide, unless they are offering sit-down, outdoor dine-in meals. Alcohol can only be sold in the same transaction as a meal.

Counties that have remained on the County Monitoring List for 3 consecutive days will be required to shut down the following industries or activities unless they can be modified to operate outside or by pick-up.

  • Fitness centers
  • Worship services
  • Protests
  • Offices for non-essential sectors
  • Personal care services, like nail salons, body waxing and tattoo parlors
  • Hair salons and barbershops
  • Malls

For the latest information and to see what counties have remained on the County Monitoring List for 3 consecutive days visit California’s COVID-19 update site.

This is not an exhaustive list. It is an addendum to the SurePayroll Return to Work Checklist. Employers should consult with their HR professionals, legal counsel where appropriate, and California’s Labor and Workforce Development Agency and COVID-19 websites.

Guidance on re-opening businesses

Check with your local jurisdictions to learn whether they might have additional requirements. For example, Los Angeles County is one of several locales that issued its own plan, while San Diego County opted to extend its emergency regulations.

  • What date should employees be recalled or rehired? This impacts employers seeking loan forgiveness for their Paycheck Protection Program loan.
  • Know how to address any changes that have been made to federal, state, or local paid leave laws. Familiarize yourself with the Families First Coronavirus Response Act to be prepared if employees are unable to return or need to take time off after returning.
  • Understand the obligations under a collective bargaining agreement (CBA) if you have unionized employees. Check CBA for rehire/recall language, including agreed upon factors in order to bring employees back. Most changes will need to be negotiated with the union.
  • If an employee was terminated and signed a separation agreement, check the language to see if the rehire requires an amendment to the separation agreement.
  • Consider providing a letter offering return to work or re-hire to employees.

  • Review and adhere to internal policies on rehiring to determine any reinstatement of accrued PTO or vacation time.
  • Provide a new Form W-4 in case the employee wants to make changes upon returning to work.

  • Ensure “new hire” employee documents (i.e. employee handbook, arbitration agreement, etc.) are updated and properly executed.
  • Does the employee need to update an existing Form I-9 or complete a new Form I-9? Review and compliance requirements for Form I-9.

  • Did employee elect COBRA, State Continuation, or other health insurance conversion rights?

  • Determine status of health plans, cafeteria plans, and other fringe benefit plans, such as vision and dental insurance.
  • Determine implications for 401(k), 403(b), and pension plans.

    Of note, California businesses with more than 100 employees need to implement a retirement plan by Sept. 30, 2020 to be compliant with the state-mandated program, CalSavers.

  • Evaluate executive compensation and severance arrangements.
  • Consider appropriate actions related to COVID-19 health pandemic. Learn what new supplemental policies on safety are recommended or required to be followed and documented. For example, what measures to promote social distancing in the workplace and safety equipment such as masks and gloves will be provided.

Additional considerations as you prepare to return employees to work include applicable wage and hour laws, especially if employees have different work schedules, pay, and classification under state and federal laws. Check out our Return to Work resource hub for FAQs and view this California-specific webinar we co-hosted with Paychex and Oasis on navigating the state’s workplace for helpful information.

For the latest on what California businesses should know:

View Our Plans and Pricing

Small Business Is Our Business.


This website contains articles posted for informational and educational value. SurePayroll is not responsible for information contained within any of these materials. Any opinions expressed within materials are not necessarily the opinion of, or supported by, SurePayroll. The information in these materials should not be considered legal or accounting advice, and it should not substitute for legal, accounting, and other professional advice where the facts and circumstances warrant. If you require legal or accounting advice or need other professional assistance, you should always consult your licensed attorney, accountant or other tax professional to discuss your particular facts, circumstances and business needs.