California Extends COVID-19 Supplemental Paid Sick Leave

AdminAssist May 28, 2021
5-minute read
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Whether you work in HR, staffing, or management, this change in California law may affect you. Senate Bill 95 (SB 95) has created new Labor Code Sections, meaning that employers may have to pay employees more paid sick leave if they are absent for reasons relating to COVID-19.

The previous California COVID-19 supplemental paid sick leave statute expired at the end of December 2020. However, this new law does more than extend the previous legislation. It adds in several amendments which may be of benefit to a number of employees.

COVID-19 Supplemental Paid Sick Leave Explained

This new law means that all covered employers (see below) must provide California COVID-19 supplemental paid sick leave or SPSL to their employees. SPSL is there to support employees who need to take leave for various reasons relating to COVID-19. We’ve included more details below on the exact circumstances that might lead to an employer needing to provide SPSL.

SB 95 has expanded upon previous legislation in several ways:

  • The new law broadens the scope of employers required to provide SPSL where necessary.
  • It dramatically increases the number of employees eligible for the support.
  • It is retroactive, allowing employees to claim SPSL from the start of 2021 as long as they were absent in line with the criteria given below.

COVID-19 Supplemental Paid Sick Leave FAQs

Are all employers bound by this law?

Most will be. The previous statute only applied to employers with 500 staff or more. The new law applies to all employers with 25 employees or more, creating an extensive expansion of the "covered employers" definition. Employers must provide full-time employees with up to 80 hours of SPSL, should they have to take time off for reasons relating to the coronavirus. For part-time staff, the amount of SPSL correlates to how many hours the individual works over a two-week period. Employers must offer SPSL in addition to standard paid sick leave.

Which employees are covered by the 2021 COVID-19 Supplemental Paid Sick Leave law?

An employee who works for a covered employer is eligible for SPSL if they cannot work, either onsite or from another location, because of the reasons listed within the statute. People who provide in-home care and welfare services are also eligible for SPSL.

If the employee is covered, in what circumstances can they take paid sick leave under this law?

Because of the nature of the pandemic, there are various reasons why someone may need to take time off due to COVID-19. Instances covered by this new law include:

  • Experiencing sickness due to COVID-19.
  • Getting time off to attend COVID-19 vaccination appointments.
  • Seeking medical attention or diagnosis due to COVID-19 symptoms.
  • Caring for a family member who is ill or isolating because of COVID-19 – family members can include spouse or partner, children, parents, grandchildren, grandparents, or siblings.
  • Being unable to work because their child (or a child they care for) cannot attend school because of COVID-19 related closures.
  • Receiving an order from a relevant authority or medical professional to begin the isolation process.

Note that this last point does not include general stay-at-home orders that affect multiple members of a particular area. The employee would only have SPSL coverage for staying at home if they or a member of their household has been told to stay home by a medical professional, the California Department of Public Health, the CDC, or a local health officer.

The law runs from January 1, 2021, until September 30, 2021, although the governor only signed it in March. This means that although employers don’t have to provide the supplemental paid sick leave until March 29, employees who were off work between January 1 and March 29 for qualifying reasons can claim payment from their employer if they’ve not received compensation for this absence. A request for paid sick leave can be oral or written, even for retroactive requests.

Working new sick leave laws into your payroll structure can be challenging. If you want further help with managing your payroll or other business accounting services, get in touch with Admin Assist and find out how we can support you and your teams.