New Year, New 2024 Sick Leave Policies in California

With a new year come new laws and regulations impacting California businesses. One of the most important changes in 2024 is an expansion of the minimum sick-day requirements.

California employees will now be eligible for five days (40 hours) of sick time, which is an increase from 3 days (24 hours). Additionally, employees are now able to carry over and accrue up to ten days (80 hours) of sick leave. With the cost of living skyrocketing, this bill alleviates the stress of having to choose between coming to work or being able to pay bills. While companies may worry about a reduction in productivity, companies truly don’t want sick employees in the office. Employees who come to work sick are less productive and can also infect other employees, and there is no evidence to support that sick day policies are abused. In addition to a change in sick time, several other HR laws are summarized below. This article is not exhaustive. We encourage consultation with an HR professional to interpret and apply new laws to your business. 

What Are The Changes?

On October 4th, 2023, Governor Newsom signed Senate Bill 616 (SB 616), which mandates employers in California to provide increased paid sick leave to their employees.1 Starting from January 1st, 2024, employers are required to provide 5 days (40 hours) of paid sick leave instead of the previously mandated 3 days (24 hours).2 Employers can continue to use their existing sick time accrual policies, but they must ensure that employees have at least three days of paid sick leave by the 120th day of each calendar year or day of employment. Moreover, employees will have five days of accrued paid sick leave by the 200th calendar day or 20th day of employment. Employers who use the accrual method are also required to allow employees to carry up to ten days of paid sick leave to the next year. Please see the table above for additional changes to the sick leave policy coming next year. 


How Will This Impact My Bottom Line?

The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated how quickly illnesses can spread. With limited paid sick leave days, sick workers might have had to come to work even when they were ill, putting themselves and their colleagues at risk and resulting in more losses for the business.[3] A study found that the states where workers were granted temporary access to paid sick leave through the Federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act in 2020 had around 400 fewer confirmed COVID-19 cases per day.[4] Additionally, sick employees have been found to be less productive, and the cost of working while sick leads to a loss of $273 billion annually in national productivity.1 Providing employees with increased flexibility to work from home can enhance productivity through improved work-life balance, increased job satisfaction, and reduced turnover.[5]


Won’t Employees Abuse This Policy?

One major concern among employers is the possibility of employees abusing their paid sick leave.[6] However, multiple studies have shown that this is not a common occurrence. In fact, after New York implemented its paid sick leave law, 98% of employers reported no cases of employee abuse of sick days. The new policy provides numerous benefits for both the employees and the organization, resulting in a more productive and supportive work environment for all.

Other Important HR Laws To Be Aware of in 2024

In addition to the change in sick leave, here are other important HR laws that business owners should be aware of as we head into the new year.[7] This list is not exhaustive, and we encourage readers to consult with an HR professional on how to interpret and apply any new laws to your business.

  • Non-Compete Agreements: SB 699 and AB 1076 will prohibit employers from entering into or enforcing non-compete agreements with employees, regardless of their job classification or position.
  • Workplace Violence Prevention: SB 553 will require employers to adopt comprehensive workplace violence prevention plans, including training for employees and recordkeeping of incidents.
  • Rebuttable Presumption of Retaliation: SB 497 will establish a rebuttable presumption of retaliation in employment discrimination cases, making it easier for employees to prove that they were retaliated against for engaging in protected activity.
  • Paid Leave for Reproductive Loss: SB 848 will provide up to five days of paid leave for employees who experience a pregnancy loss, including miscarriage, stillbirth, or unsuccessful embryo transfer.


Conclusion

In 2024, California’s new sick leave policies will bring about significant changes. These changes will include increased accrual rates, a higher rollover limit, and expanded eligibility reasons. The main objective behind these changes is to improve employee well-being, reduce absenteeism, and slow the spread of illnesses. Small and medium-sized businesses should prioritize these policies as they can help attract and retain talent, increase productivity, and reduce healthcare costs. It is essential for companies to stay informed about these changes and other new laws going into effect in 2024 to ensure compliance and to avoid any legal risks.


[1] State of California. Workers just got more paid sick days. California Governor.

[2] Susan E. Groff, J. A. O. California’s paid sick leave requirements increased effective 2024. California Workplace Law Blog. 

[3] Austin, S., & Nguyen, T.). California workers will get five sick days instead of three under law signed by gov. Newsom. AP News. https://apnews.com/article/california-paid-sick-days-manual-vote-counts-1fa0896084e3873efd365b447e87d140

[4] Stefan Pichler et al., COVID-19 Emergency Sick Leave Has Helped Flatten the Curve in the United States, 39 Health Affairs 2197, 2202 (2020).

[5] Paid sick leave is good for business – A better balance. (n.d.-a). https://www.abetterbalance.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/Paid-Sick-Leave-Is-Good-for-Business-2.23.21.pdf

[6] Applebaum, Eileen & Milkman, Ruth. No Big Deal: The Impact of New York City’s Paid Sick Days Law on Employers, Center for Economic and Policy Research, 2016 – https://cepr.net/images/stories/reports/nyc-paid-sick-days-2016-09.pdf

[7] New California Employment Laws for 2024 and Beyond – https://calchamberalert.com/2022/11/18/calchamber-presents-guide-to-2023-employment-laws/