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California Paid Sick Leave for Part-Time Employees

by Jennifer Shaw and Melissa Whitehead | | March 18, 2024

One of the most common questions employers ask us about California’s paid sick leave law is how it applies to part-time employees. Below we identify the three most common methods of calculating paid sick leave and address how they apply to part-time employees.

Accrual Method (1:30)

Employers may have a policy in which employees accrue one hour of sick leave for every 30 hours worked. This policy applies equally to part-time and full-time employees.

Accrual Method (Alternative Rate)

Employers may have employees accrue paid sick leave at a rate other than one hour for every 30 hours worked, but must meet certain benchmarks to make that alternative accrual valid. Employers using an alternative accrual rate must ensure that employees accrue 24 hours or three days of sick leave by the 120th day of the year and 40 hours or five days by the 200th day.

California’s Department of Industrial Relations (“DIR”) recently updated its “Frequently Asked Questions” to clarify that these benchmarks do not apply to employers using an accrual rate of one hour paid sick leave for every 30 worked. The benchmarks “are set up as a measure for employers who use other accrual methods so that the plans meet certain minimums. The measure assumes full-time employment.” In other words, these benchmarks will be difficult to meet with part-time employees, so the DIR “assumes” employers use alternative accrual rates for full-time employees.

Lump-Sum or Frontload Method

Employers may provide the full amount of leave (five days or 40 hours, whichever is more) at the beginning of a designated 12-month period. The primary benefit of this method is the ease of administration, because there are no carryover or accrual cap issues. However, employers using this method may not pro-rate the amount of sick leave for part-time employees, who are entitled to 40 hours of paid sick leave even if they only work 20 hours per week, for instance.

Employer Take-Aways

Employers may use different methods of providing paid sick leave to part-time and full-time employees. For example, employers may opt to use the lump-sum method for full-time employees and the 1:30 accrual method for part-time employees. Fortunately, the DIR has now confirmed that employers may utilize the 1:30 accrual method without worrying about the benchmarks that would be quite cumbersome for part-time employees.

For more information about California’s paid sick leave requirements, read our October 9, 2023, blog post about “California’s Expanded Paid Sick Leave” and our November 6, 2023, blog post with “Answers to Common Paid Sick Leave Questions.”

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