New California COVID Law Brings Back Supplemental Paid Sick Leave

Author: David B. Weisenfeld, XpertHR Legal Editor

March 22, 2021

Millions of California employees have regained the right to take supplemental paid sick leave under a measure signed Friday by Gov. Gavin Newsom.

Effective immediately, SB-95 entitles a covered employee to take up to two weeks of COVID-19 supplemental paid sick leave if the employee either works full time or was scheduled to work, on average, at least 40 hours per week for the employer in the two weeks before the employee needed to take leave.

The measure applies to employees who are unable to work or telework for reasons related to COVID-19, including that a health care provider advised them to self-quarantine. Under the law, employees can take paid time off for any of the following reasons:

  • To self-quarantine or self-isolate;
  • For appointments to get a COVID vaccine and time needed to deal with any lingering side effects;
  • To deal with COVID-19 symptoms and/or seek a medical diagnosis;
  • To care for a family member in self-quarantine or self-isolation; and
  • To care for a child whose school or place of care is unavailable due to COVID-19 exposure.

Since the law applies retroactively to January 1, 2021, employers may have to compensate employees who took unpaid time off since then for any covered reason. This retroactive payment must be paid on or before the pay day for the next full pay period after the covered employee makes an oral or written request. The new law provides a 10-day grace period (through March 29) for covered employers to start providing paid sick leave.

An employer will not be required to pay more than $511 per day and $5,110 in total to a covered employee for COVID-19 supplemental paid sick leave unless federal legislation is enacted to increase these amounts.

California had previously provided COVID-19 supplemental leave for many employees, but those provisions had expired at the end of 2020. The new law applies until September 30, 2021, and covers California employers with more than 25 employees.