COVID-19 Supplemental Paid Sick Leave for California Employees

To help California employees fend off economic instability as the pandemic lingers in some corners of the state, the powers that be in Sacramento approved an additional 80 hours of paid leave for those affected by the virus. The program, dubbed Supplemental Paid Sick Leave (SPSL), applies to public and private employers with at least 26 employees. 

The paid leave does not apply to independent contractors. Full-time employees are entitled to 80 hours of SPSL. Part-time employees with regular working hours are entitled to pay that correlates to their normal amount of hours worked over a typical two-week period. Covered part-time employees who work variable hours are entitled to 14 times the pay they received in an average work day (applicable to the previous six months). 

The SPSL will expire on September 30, 2021. Importantly, SPSL may be retroactively applied to coronavirus-related leave taken since Jan. 1, 2021. 

Qualifying Supplemental Paid Sick Leave Events

The SPSL program may only be used to address situations in which an employee is affected by COVID-19. Events that qualify an employee for SPSL because they render the employee unable to work or telework are:

  • Being ordered or recommended by the California Department of Public Health, CDC, a local health officer, or a health care provider to quarantine;
  • Seeking a COVID-19 diagnosis after experiencing symptoms; 
  • Caring for a family member who has been ordered to quarantine or whose health care provider has recommended they quarantine due to COVID-19;
  • Caring for a child whose school or daycare is closed or unavailable due to COVID-19; 
  • Attending a vaccine clinic or appointment; or
  • Experiencing side effects from a COVID-19 vaccine. 

How Does an Employee Request Supplemental Paid Sick Leave?

An employee simply needs to make an oral or written request to receive SPSL for qualifying events. This requirement applies to requests for past (retroactive), present, and future time off. Employers may not request medical proof before paying SPSL unless the employee in question does something to cast doubt on the request’s legitimacy. For instance, seeing Facebook photos of the employee at an amusement park would call the request into question. 

Pay Rates for Non-Exempt Employees

Exempt employees will simply be paid the same rate for SPSL as they are paid for other paid sick leave. Non-exempt employees (hourly and some salaried employees) are to be paid the highest of these four rates: 

  • Regular pay rate for the work week in question;
  • Average hourly pay rate for the previous 90 days; 
  • State minimum wage; or
  • Local minimum wage. 

Integrated General Counsel Can Help Your Business Stay in Compliance

The 2021 Supplemental Paid Sick Leave is yet another program that many California employers have had to digest, implement, and communicate to employees. Our business & employment law firm is happy to help you navigate these shifting legal requirements while staying profitable and successful. Want to learn more about how we can help your enterprise? Call us today at (925) 399-1529 to set up an initial consultation.