Two bills wending their way through the state Legislature would increase the amount of sick days workers in the Golden State can take as well as expand — once again — the definition of “family” for the purposes of paid family leave.

Business groups have come out against both of the bills, which they say will increase protected work absences, further burdening employers. Here’s a look at the two measures, which the California Chamber of Commerce has dubbed “job killers.”


SB 616

Workers in California are entitled up to a minimum of three days (or 24 hours) of paid sick leave per year, and this legislation would expand that to seven days — or 56 hours.

The bill preserves the option of providing the benefit on a lump-sum basis (meaning they can take all the days off immediately and would not have to earn the time off through hours worked), or allowing the benefit to accrue depending on the number of hours worked.

Employees could continue accruing sick leave at a rate of one hour for every 30 hours worked. However, the alternative accrual rate, which is currently 24 hours by the 120th day of the year, would be changed to 56 hours by the 280th day of the year. In other words, they would have to accrue sick day benefits before taking them.

The measure also would increase the minimum accrual cap. Under current law, the minimum accrual cap is 48 hours, or six days. The proposed bill would increase the cap to 112 hours, or 14 days.

SB 616’s authors say that other states have more generous paid leave laws and that California needs to catch up. They also cite how long it takes for COVID-19 to clear the body and that workers should be able to recuperate at home and not have to worry about losing wages as a result.

The Chamber of Commerce says it’s a costly sick leave expansion that “imposes new costs and leave requirements on employers of all sizes, by more than doubling existing sick leave mandates, which is in addition to all other enacted leave mandates that small employers throughout the state are already struggling with to implement and comply.”

This bill has passed out of the state Senate and is now in committee in the Assembly.


AB 518

Under current law, workers can take up to eight weeks a year in paid family leave to care for a family member, which includes children, parents, grandparents, grandchildren, siblings, spouses or domestic partners. The leave can be to care for a baby or a seriously ill person, or during a military deployment.

AB 518 would expand the definition of family to include “chosen family” — such as loved ones whom an employee may consider family but without a legal or biological relationship. Further, the measure would allow workers to take paid time off to care for an elderly neighbor, cousin or friend.

Proponents of the measure say it would help low-wage workers who may not be able to afford to take time off unpaid to take care of a chosen or extended family. Likewise, they say the bill addresses LQBTQ individuals who may be in alternative relationships.

The Chamber warns that “This expansive definition provides a nearly limitless claim on paid time off.”

This bill has passed out of the Assembly and is awaiting committee hearing in the state Senate.

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