California COVID-19 Paid Sick Leave Update

By Kris Janisch
Published May 17, 2021

California COVID-19 Paid Sick Leave

The expiration date of California’s COVID-19 supplemental paid sick leave law is Sept. 30, 2021. Still, it has a labor law posting requirement.

California’s COVID-19 supplemental paid sick leave law was recently expanded to cover all employers with 25 or more workers.

Retroactive to Jan. 1, 2021, the law went into effect April 1 and is similar to a previous COVID-19 supplemental paid sick leave law.

It is also worth noting that California’s food sector workers COVID-19 paid sick leave law was not extended. However, those types of employees are eligible under the new law.

The expiration date of California’s COVID-19 supplemental paid sick leave law is Sept. 30, 2021. Still, it has a labor law posting requirement.

California COVID-19 Supplemental Paid Sick Leave

Most employees are eligible for 80 hours of leave under California’s COVID-19 supplemental paid sick leave law.

Employees with a “normal weekly schedule” get the total number of hours they would work during a two-week period.

However, the maximum use for employees with variable schedules is based on other factors. It would generally be the average number of hours they worked over a two-week period during the six months before taking COVID-19 leave.

But what about employees who have been working for the company fewer than six months? Here, the law says:

  • If an employee has worked for the company more than 14 days but fewer than six months, the employee receives 14 times the average number of hours over the entire time employee has worked for the business
  • If an employee has worked for the business for 14 days or fewer, the employee receives paid sick leave equal to the number of hours the employee has worked for the company

Also, for employees who took leave for COVID-19 reasons before April 1, employers must pay for the time taken under the previous version of the law in certain situations.

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Covered Employees and Reasons for Use

Covered employees are those who are unable to work, or cannot work remotely, because of an eligible COVID-19-related reason. The law gives employees plenty of leeway with covered reasons for use, including:

  • An employee is under a government order to isolate
  • An employee has been advised to isolate
  • An employee is getting a vaccination
  • An employee is symptomatic an unable to work
  • An employee is seeking a medical diagnosis for COVID-19 symptoms
  • An employee is caring for a family member who must isolate
  • An employee must look after a child whose daycare or school is closed because of COVID-19

Paid Leave Glossary

Other Employer Considerations

Employment Law Compliance LinkedIn GroupThere are other factors employers need to consider regarding supplemental COVID-19 paid sick leave in California.

First, there is no accrual rate or carryover. There is also no payout of unused paid sick leave upon separation of employment.

Second, like other paid sick leave laws, employees are entitled to their regular rate of pay, or state or local minimum wage, whichever is highest. Additionally, payment can be capped at $511 per day and $5,110 total for COVID-19-related leave.

Third, there are notice and recordkeeping requirements: Employers must provide an itemized wage statement (or separate writing) to ensure employees understand how many separate hours they have for COVID-19 specific sick leave.

Lastly, employees must request leave verbally or in writing. And employees are afforded protection from retaliation for using paid sick leave.


Even as the U.S. is making strides in combatting the COVID-19 pandemic, there are several regulations and laws to monitor, especially in California, where hazard pay laws are still ongoing in many smaller jurisdictions.

As many states reduce limitations on gatherings, mask-wearing and more, the hope is that the nation continues to turn the corner on the pandemic.

Once COVID-19 is in the rearview mirror, it will eliminate one piece of the compliance puzzle. But employers should not make plans to relax their efforts. The pandemic has placed a greater emphasis on several aspects of employment law — not only paid leave, but minimum wage and workplace safety, as well.

Lawmakers could view the last year-plus as a trial for expanded leave laws, which could mean additional legislation in the years ahead.

This Employment Law News blog is intended for market awareness only, it is not to be used for legal advice or counsel.

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