COVID-19 Paid Sick Leave Expiration Approaches

For nearly the entirety of the pandemic, either the federal or California governments have required most employers to provide paid sick leave to their employees for COVID-19-related qualifying events. These mandates are expiring at the end of the month, but employers still need to keep an eye on any local ordinances where employees perform work.

The federal government first implemented the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) that required employers with fewer than 500 employees to provide up to 80 hours of paid sick leave and up to 12 weeks of expanded Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) leave. The federal mandate ended December 31, 2020. Starting January 1, 2021, the federal government pivoted to allow employers to voluntarily provide the leave and still claim the tax credits available. The tax credits for FFCRA leave expire September 30, 2021, regardless of whether an employee is currently on leave as of the expiration.

To fill the gap for those employees who worked for employers that either employed 500 or more employees or chose not to voluntarily continue providing leave under the FFCRA, California passed a COVID-19 supplemental paid sick leave (SPSL) law on March 29, 2021. The law was retroactive, requiring employers with more than 25 employees to provide up to 80 hours of paid sick leave for qualifying COVID-19-related reasons to their employees starting January 1, 2021. This mandate also expires September 30, 2021. However, an employee who is taking SPSL as of September 30 must be allowed to continue their leave beyond September 30 until the employee either exhausts their leave balance or no longer has a qualifying reason to take the leave.

Although both the federal and California COVID-19 sick leave programs will expire on September 30, some employers will still have to continue to administer sick leave programs pursuant to local ordinances. The following localities have active supplemental paid sick leave ordinances:

  • Long Beach
  • Los Angeles City
  • Los Angeles County (unincorporated areas)
  • Marin County (unincorporated areas)
  • Oakland
  • San Mateo County (unincorporated areas)
  • Santa Rosa
  • Sonoma County (unincorporated areas)

The expiration dates on these local ordinances vary, and employers who have employees who perform work in any of these localities should familiarize themselves with these ordinances and provide any appropriate leave available to employees who have not already exhausted their leave entitlements. In addition, Sacramento City, Sacramento County (unincorporated areas), San Francisco and San Jose all had COVID-19 paid sick leave ordinances that expired, but with the expiration of the federal and California sick leaves, these localities may reimplement their ordinances. Employers with employees in these localities should stay up-to-date on their local conditions.

As of publication, no federal or California COVID-19 paid sick leave programs are scheduled to continue beyond September 30. However, as has been the case throughout the pandemic, this may change in a flash so employers should continue to track developments at the federal and state levels at they happen. Stay tuned to HRWatchdog for updates.

Matthew J. Roberts, Employment Law Counsel/Subject Matter Expert

CalChamber members and nonmembers can read more about COVID-19: Federal, State and Local Leave Issues in the HR Library. Like what you see? See how CalChamber can help you.

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