On March 19, 2021, Governor Gavin Newsom signed into law SB 95 enacting a modified version of California’s COVID-19 supplemental paid sick leave (“SPSL”) law, which expired on December 31, 2020. Although SB 95 took effect on March 19, 2021, it provided a 10-day grace period until March 29, 2021 for employers to start providing this sick leave. The new law will remain in effect until September 30, 2021 and imposes many requirements, including the following:

Covered Employers. The SPSL law applies to employers with more than 25 employees.

Covered Reasons for SPSL.  Employees are permitted to take SPSL whenever they are unable to work or telework for any of the following reasons:

  • The employee is subject to a quarantine or isolation period related to COVID-19;
  • The employee has been advised by a healthcare provider to self-quarantine due to concerns related to COVID-19;
  • The employee is attending an appointment to receive a vaccine for protection against COVID-19;
  • The employee is experiencing symptoms related to a COVID-19 vaccine that prevent the employee from being able to work or telework;
  • The employee is experiencing symptoms related to COVID-19 and is seeking a medical diagnosis;
  • The employee is caring for a family member who is subject to a quarantine or isolation order or has been advised to self-quarantine;
  • The employee is caring for a child whose school or place of care is closed or otherwise unavailable for reasons related to COVID-19 on the premises.

Retroactive Payments. The requirement to provide SPSL applies retroactively to January 1, 2021. If an employer did not compensate an employee for absences that are covered by this new SPSL law, the employer is required to issue retroactive payments to employees who request such payments verbally or in writing, unless the employee received exclusion pay under the Cal/OSHA Emergency Temporary Standards or other pay.

Rate of Pay. For non-exempt employees, the compensation rate is normally the employee’s regular rate of pay for the pay period in which SPSL is taken. For exempt employees, compensation is calculated in the same manner as the employer calculates wages for other forms of paid leave time.   An employer is not required to pay more than $511 per day and $5,110 in the aggregate. SPSL must be reflected on itemized wage statements, set forth separately from regular paid sick days.

Amount of SPSL. Full-time employees and employees who were scheduled to work an average of 40 hours per week in the two weeks before requesting SPSL are entitled to 80 hours of SPSL. Part-time employees generally receive SPSL based on the total number of hours they are normally scheduled to work over two weeks. There is no length of service requirement for SPSL entitlement.

Employers cannot require employees to use PTO, vacation, or unpaid time off before using SPSL. Employers may require employees to first exhaust their SPSL before the employer will be required to pay exclusion pay under the Cal/OSHA Emergency Temporary Standards.

Notice Requirement. Employers must provide employees with notice of this new law, at the worksite and electronically for remote workers.  The Labor Commissioner’s office model notice can be accessed here: https://www.dir.ca.gov/dlse/2021-COVID-19-Supplemental-Paid-Sick-Leave.pdf.

The text of SB 95 can be accessed at Bill Text – SB-95 Employment: COVID-19: supplemental paid sick leave. (ca.gov).

The Labor Commissioner’s 2021 COVID-19 Supplemental Paid Sick Leave FAQs can be accessed here: https://www.dir.ca.gov/dlse/COVID19Resources/FAQ-for-SPSL-2021.html.