California passed a law in March of 2021 that allowed employees to take up to an additional 80 hours of supplemental COVID paid sick leave, if they met certain requirements. This law expires on September 30, 2021, and the Legislature did not pass any new legislation extending by the deadline for the Regular Session. This means that except in specific circumstances discussed below, employers will not be required to provide their employees with supplemental COVID paid sick leave starting October 1, 2021.
As employees may realize they have not requested supplemental COVID paid sick leave this year, a refresher on how and when they may qualify, and how much they must be paid is appropriate.
How does an employee qualify for supplemental COVID paid sick leave?
An employee may request supplemental COVID paid sick leave if he or she is unable to work or telework for any of the following reasons:
The employee’s own needs
- Is quarantining or isolating due to COVID, defined by an order or guidelines from the California Department of Public Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or a local health officer with jurisdiction over the workplace;
- Has been advised by a healthcare provider to quarantine; or
- Is experiencing COVID symptoms and is seeking a medical diagnosis.
Caring for a family member
The employee is caring for a family member subject to quarantine or isolation, or is caring for a child whose school or place of care is closed, or otherwise unavailable, due to COVID on the premises.
The employee is attending a vaccine appointment, or cannot work or telework due to vaccine-related symptoms.
Which employees qualify for supplemental COVID paid sick leave?
Both full time and part time employees may qualify for supplemental COVID paid sick leave. Additionally, employees who “are unable to work or telework” also qualify. Independent contractors do not qualify for supplemental COVID paid sick leave.
How many hours can an employee receive?
Depending on whether an employee is full or part time, an employee may request up to 80 hours of supplemental COVID paid sick leave for the period of January 1, 2021 – September 30, 2021.
For part time employees, the number of hours they may receive depends on the number of hours they work each week. An employee who has a regular weekly schedule may receive up to the same number of hours they normally work over two weeks. If an employee has a variable schedule, he or she may receive 14 times the average number of hours worked per day over the last six months.
Which employers are required to provide supplemental COVID paid sick leave?
Public or private employers who have more than 25 employees are required to provide supplemental COVID paid sick leave.
How may an employee request supplemental COVID paid sick leave?
Employees may request supplemental COVID paid sick leave orally or in writing. If the employee qualifies, the employer must grant the request, even if the request was made after the leave was already taken, and pay the employee COVID supplemental sick leave pay by the next pay day. The employer must also accurately note the leave on the employee’s itemized wage statement, including the number of hours taken, and how many hours remain available.
What if an Employee Is Out on Supplemental COVID paid sick leave when the law expires?
If an employee requests or qualifies for supplemental COVID paid sick leave on or before September 30, 2021, the employee may take the full 80 hours of supplemental COVID paid sick leave or whatever other amount remains available to them after prior use of COVID paid sick leave. The employer must pay the employee the supplemental COVID paid sick leave the employee is entitled to, including whatever part of the leave occurs after October 1, 2021.
Is this the end of supplemental COVID paid sick leave?
As of right now, it appears that the California legislature will not extend the sick leave law. If the pandemic continues or new variants of COVID arise, the legislature may revisit this issue. Before ending their supplemental COVID paid sick leave program, all businesses should review the health order in effect for their jurisdiction to determine whether it includes requirements related to paying for time off due to COVID.