California's Paid Sick Leave Law Is Almost Here -- Will You Be Ready?

03/19/2015 02:04 pm ET | Updated May 19, 2015

Last week I trained a group of small business owners. After I finished my introduction and housekeeping, a hand shot out of the crowd followed by an impatient voice asking, "Are you going to discuss the new sick leave law?"

For those of you who are not based in CA, you may have no understanding of the significance of that question, but for those of us who do business in CA, it's all anyone is taking about.

Effective July 1, 2015, most California employers will have to provide at least 24 hours of paid sick leave to their employees. Employers can choose to accrue these hours over a period of time, or grant them all at once. While there are a few employers who are exempt from this new law known as the Health Workplaces, Healthy Families Act, the majority of CA employers are covered -- companies small and large, public and private, for profit and not-for-profit.

The paid sick time has to be offered to all employees. All part-time, full-time, exempt, non-exempt, temporary, seasonal, you name it -- all of them. This new requirement is having a tremendous impact on industries that traditionally don't offer paid sick time.

As is often the case when a new regulation comes out, there is much confusion on how the law is to be interpreted. Therefore I thought I'd focus this post on the misconceptions the participants at my training had as it relates to the new law:

#1 - Our Company already offers 24 or more hours of sick time to our employees -- there's nothing for us to do regarding this new law right?

Not quite. There are other components of the Act that employers must follow such as a new compliance poster to hang and an updated wage notice to distribute at time of hire. Both of these requirements went into effect January 1, 2015.

In addition, employers who already offer at least 24 hours of paid sick leave should ensure their existing policies mirror the eligibility categories of the Act. For instance, sick time may be used not only for the employee's own health condition, but also for their child, spouse, parent, plus sibling, grandchild and grandparent. Most company sick leave polices do not cover "grands" and "sibs" so watch out for that small but important difference.

Another stumbling block for employers is that the Act requires paid sick leave to be offered to temporary employees. Let's say you're a day camp that hires summer counselors for three months, these employees would be eligible for paid sick leave. Still think your existing policy requires no tweaking?

Catch my next post where I'll go over some additional common misconceptions regarding the Act.