California Takes Steps to have Healthy Workplaces | DCR Workforce Blog

California Takes Steps to have Healthy Workplaces

CaliforniaMy sister was to attend a conference in China in the first week of June, and the family was busy with wish lists of things they would like her to get them. But, the day before she and her colleagues were to fly, they were told that the conference was indefinitely postponed. All their preparations came to naught, thanks to an outbreak of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) in China brought there by an infected South Korean who flew into China in spite of having a family member who was down with MERS. Such is the power of infection and disease that it makes scant sense to force sick employees to report to work, infecting many others. This is especially true of workers in places like restaurants, schools, hospitals, retail showrooms and other crowded, public places. California has now joined the growing list of States that have taken steps to ensure that, when ill, workers can stay home and recuperate.

The new California Paid Sick Leave Law (AB 304) went into effect July 1st. Employers in California have to provide sick leave to employees who, on or after July 1, 2015, work in California for 30 or more days within a year from the beginning of employment. 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.

The only exceptions are employees already covered by qualifying collective bargaining agreements, in-home supportive services providers, and certain employees of air carriers.

Specifics of the new California law:

  • Nearly all California employees can accrue one hour of paid leave for every 30 hours worked, or about three days per year. Employers need to arrange for paid sick leave, even if they have only a single employee (including part-time or temporary employees) as long as the individual worked at least 30 days in the year.
  • Employers with existing Paid Time Off policies, which may be more generous than what is offered under the new law, must either keep track of each employee’s accrual and use of paid sick leave or include them under their own more generous policies.
  • If the employers choose to track each employee’s paid sick leave, they must also decide on the plan to grant sick leave – either in a block grant or accrued over time. Employers can use accrual methods different from the “one hour per thirty hours worked” method, provided the accrual method meets certain requirements. Employers can cap the sick leave at 24 hours, or 3 days a year.
  • Employers can either use the 90-day look-back method or simply pay out sick pay at the regular rate of pay for the workweek in which the sick time is used.
  • Exempt employees’ paid sick time is calculated in the same manner as the employer calculates wages for other forms of paid leave time.
  • Workers can use their sick days after 90 days of employment. The law requires employers to display how much sick leave employees have on their paystub document or on another sheet of paper simultaneously issued with paychecks. So, in turn, they need to instruct payroll departments or third-party payroll processors on each employee’s accrued paid sick leave.
  • The law allows an employer who has “unlimited” PTO or sick leave plan to simply report “unlimited” on employees’ paystubs.
  • Last but not the least; employers must immediately add a California Paid Sick Leave section to employee handbooks.

The new law makes it possible for employees to report sickness and take time off to rest, recuperate or get preventive care, like scheduled doctor and dentist appointments, for themselves or their family members. Workers are not required to get a note from a doctor. Unused sick leave can be carried over to the subsequent year.

Employers have expressed concerns regarding the financial impact of paying for the absent employee as well as the person who is substituting for the absent worker, amounting to an additional 3 days’ pay per employee per year. However, proponents point out that having one’s workforce and customers come down with influenza or worse is not an attractive option either! How much productivity can one expect from a sick employee?

When the law is applied to contingent workers placed by staffing agencies serving as the employer of record, we can expect to see customers specifying that they will not pay for workers who are absent due to illness. Payment will be viewed as the responsibility of the staffing agency, and should not be passed on to the customer. We’ll monitor how this law – and similar laws around the country – unfolds and report back at a future time.

The content on this blog is for informational purposes only and cannot be construed as specific legal advice or as a substitute for competent legal advice. They reflect the opinions of DCR Workforce and may not reflect the opinions of any individual attorney. Do contact an attorney for advice specific to your issue or problem.
Lalita is a people/project manager with extensive experience in operations, HCM and training and development across industries like banking, education, business consulting, BPO and information technology. She believes in a dynamic approach to life and learning as change is the only constant.