Paid Sick Leave Policy: What If I Want to Make Changes?

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SunnyLee• We adopted the accrual method of paid sick leave and put that into effect last July and we now want to change to the lump sum method this year. Is that permissible?

Two of the more common methods that an employer could adopt regarding the mandated state paid sick leave were the accrual method (1 hour of paid sick leave accrued for every 30 hours of regular and overtime hours worked) and the lump sum method (employer provided a minimum of 24 hours or 3 days up front to an employee’s sick leave bank).

There is nothing in the law that would prevent an employer from changing the method used. However, if an employee had any unused paid sick leave at the end of the first 12 months under the accrual method that was in effect, up to 48 hours would need to be carried forward.

• I have adopted the lump sum method of paying sick leave and under that method there was no carryover from year to year. I want to adopt a carryover provision to eliminate employees all using that time before it expires. Is that something that I can do?

Yes, you are able to provide a greater benefit than the law specifies. In this case, with the lump sum option, you were not required by law to allow any carryover.

If you now choose to provide for carryover, you could do so, but you would still need to continue to provide the lump sum payment at the beginning of the second year as you did when you instituted your paid sick leave policy.

• Can I provide more paid sick leave to some employees and not others?

Yes, an employer may treat different classes of employees differently as long as all employees in that class are treated equally and as long as the minimum paid sick leave provisions are met for each class.

For example, an employer may elect to provide more paid sick leave to full-time employees than to part-time employees.

• Can we choose not to limit the use of paid sick leave during an employee’s first 90 days of employment?

Yes, you may choose not to include the provision limiting new employees from using paid sick leave during the first 90 days of employment.

If you had adopted that provision last July when your paid sick leave policy needed to go into effect, you could make a change in your policy to not include that provision going forward, as it was an option that an employer could adopt.

• Am I required to limit the use of an employee’s paid sick leave to 24 hours or 3 days per year?

The state-mandated minimum amount of paid sick leave that an employer was required to provide to employees was 24 hours or 3 days, whichever was greater. There is nothing in the law that would prevent you from providing more paid sick leave to your employees.

In fact, many cities in California have adopted their own paid sick leave ordinances that require more than the state law required, and in order to meet a local ordinance, an employer would have to provide more. For an overview of the cities that have passed local ordinances and a link to their websites, please visit HRCalifornia.

Caveat

Many of the changes that employers may want to make have not been provided for in the original law or amendment. In addition, many cities in California have passed their own paid sick leave ordinances.

Therefore, any changes that an employer might choose to make to an existing paid sick leave policy should be reviewed with legal counsel.


The Labor Law Helpline is a service to California Chamber of Commerce preferred and executive members. For expert explanations of labor laws and Cal/OSHA regulations, not legal counsel for specific situations, call (800) 348-2262 or submit your question at www.hrcalifornia.com.

Staff Contact: Sunny Lee

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Sunny Lee
About Sunny Lee
Sunny Lee joined the CalChamber in 1995 and currently is an HR adviser. Before joining the CalChamber staff, Lee represented employers in state and federal court and before governmental agencies. She has extensive dispute resolution experience, having served as a court mediator in harassment cases, employment disputes and business litigation. She has trained employers and conducted audits of employment practices. Lee earned a J.D. from the McGeorge School of Law, University of the Pacific.