Are You Sick of it Yet? California Employers Must Provide Increased Paid Sick Leave to Employees in 2024
Posted October 6, 2023

It’s no secret that California employers and human resources professionals must be constantly vigilant of the ever-changing landscape of employment laws implemented each year by our federal and state legislatures as well as local government authorities. This year is no different. Although numerous bills have been passed during this legislative session (and there will certainly be more to come), the most significant change in the law for employers in 2024 by far is the implementation of increased amounts of paid sick leave under S.B. 616. Below is a quick question-and-answer series to summarize the key points of this new law.

When is S.B. 616 live?

S.B. 616 goes into effect on January 1, 2024.

Does it apply to all employees?

The paid sick leave law applies to virtually all employees regardless of status (full-time, part-time, per diem, and temporary or agency employees). It also applies to non-exempt and exempt employees, and to businesses of any size (with the exception of five very limited statutory exceptions laid out in Labor Code Section 245.5(a); click here).

What has changed?

Here are four key changes to keep in mind:

  • S.B. 616 increases California’s state paid sick leave amount for employees. Although California’s standard accrual rate remains the same (“one hour per every 30 hours worked … from the commencement of employment”), S.B. 616 changes the annual amount employees can use from 24 hours or three days to 40 hours or five days. For employers using an accrual method, S.B. 616 also increases the total amount of unused paid sick leave that an employee can carry over from year-to-year from 48 hours or six days to 80 hours or ten days.
  • Companies can use an alternative accrual method (something other than one hour for every 30 hours worked) so long as “the accrual is on a regular basis so that an employee has no less than 24 hours of accrued sick leave or paid time off by the 120th calendar day of employment … and no less than 40 hours of accrued sick leave or paid time off by the 200th calendar day of employment or each calendar year, or in each 12-month period.”
  • Front-loading sick leave at the start of each year is still allowed, but you must increase the front-loaded allotment to 40 hours or five days each year.
  • Through S.B. 616, the State of California partial preempts local rules, but only on certain sections of Labor Code section 246. This means, for example, that if a local jurisdiction (where your employees work for more than two hours weekly, even on a remote basis) requires more sick leave to be provided annually, a different accrual method or higher carry-over amounts, those local rules will control. Currently, the cities with local sick leave rules are San Diego, Los Angeles, West Hollywood, Santa Monica, San Francisco, Oakland, Emeryville and Berkeley.

What should I do now?

There are steep penalties for the failure to comply and for willful violations of S.B. 616. To ensure compliance, employers should work with their employment law counsel to create updated paid sick leave policies before year-end. If you include sick leave language in your offer letters, employment agreements or other similar documents, you will need to revise those as well.

Remember that annual updates to your employee handbooks are critical to capture each year's new legislation as well as the cases and administrative opinions issued in the prior year. Employers should work with their employment counsel to prepare overall policy updates to be ready for 2024.

What’s next?

We expect that the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement will issue updated Paid Sick Leave FAQs and a revised notice in the near future. LightGabler will continue to provide updates as needed and employers are encouraged to watch for further information on this important topic.

For questions regarding S.B. 616, paid sick leave or PTO, or assistance with other employment law issues, contact the attorneys at LightGabler.

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