California Labor Laws Regarding Sick Time

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Paying for sick time for employees in California is up to the employer, according to the State of California Department of Industrial Relations. Employers can choose not to provide paid sick leave for employees. However, this may result in an inability to recruit high-quality employees. Employers who have 50 or more employees are required to provide unpaid sick time per the federal Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA).

Paid Leave in California

California employees pay into a State Disability Insurance (SDI) fund through payroll deductions. This is under the Unemployment insurance Code and may be applied for when leaving work due to pregnancy or illness not related to employment. Although employers are not required to participate in the fund by providing payroll deduction, many do. Work-related injury or illness is covered separately by Workers' Compensation. Under California Labor Code 233, if employers do provide paid sick leave, they must allow employees to take the equivalent of a six-month accrual rate of sick time, if necessary, to care for an ill parent or child.

Unpaid Leave

Providing unpaid leave benefits to employees is required by the FMLA in certain circumstances. Employers with 50 or more employees are required to adhere to the FMLA, which provides 12 weeks of unpaid time for an employee's own illness, pregnancy, birth or adoption of a child or illness of a spouse, parent or child. There are numerous guidelines within FMLA regarding notification to the employer, intermittent leave and other stipulations for its application (see the Resources section).

Pros and Cons

Paid sick leave attracts higher-quality employees who may not consider taking a position unless it provides this benefit, according to However, sometimes there are issues with employees who abuse sick leave. One way of deterring sick leave abuse is by requiring employees to call in everyday when they are sick. Additionally, employers can require a doctor's note for sick time and monitor patterns, if any. Some employers in California offer extended leave accrual to be used for sick or vacation days. These leaves are at the discretion of individual employers.