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Time & Attendance

Paid Sick Leave for California Substitutes

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While some jurisdictions have not yet adopted paid sick leave laws for part-time workers, the number that have has steadily risen over the last few years.

California, however, is one of just three states where paid sick leave is mandated statewide for part-time workers.

According to the Healthy Workplace, Healthy Families Act of 2014 (AB 1522) and Assembly Bill No. 304, California employers must provide a minimum amount of paid sick leave to any employee who works for the same employer for at least 30 days in a year.

While this law benefits a great number of workers, it creates a complex situation for Californian school districts. How is a district supposed to handle sick pay for all of their substitute teachers who work irregular numbers of days in unpredictable locations around a school district?

For some districts, the effect has been neither simple nor cheap.

The effect of substitute paid sick leave on California districts

So what effect has the legislation had on California districts?

1. It takes time.

Unfortunately, legislation isn’t always written with the end-user in mind. District leaders have reported confusion as they grappled to understand what the new laws meant for them.

Employees accrue 1 hour of sick leave for every 30 hours they work. However, employers can limit the total number of sick days an employee uses to 24 hours per year. Employees can then carry over unused sick days, but employers can still limit their bank of sick days to 48 hours in a year.

There are a lot of caveats and exceptions there, and that doesn’t even take into account city-level regulations, which might implicate even stricter standards. But understanding what the law means isn’t the only hurdle to adjusting to it. Districts also have to deal with the subsequent scheduling difficulties.

Some districts try to limit the schedules of substitutes nearing the 30-day threshold. Others don’t, but they still have to deal with the reality that substitutes with sick pay are more likely to cancel scheduled shifts if they themselves have fallen ill.

Of course, this is a good thing. Sick employees need rest, and nobody wants workers spreading their illness by trying to power through a shift, scheduling difficulties notwithstanding.

Still, some districts are left wondering how they’re supposed to manage the new law. Discerning what processes other Californian districts are employing to manage their sick pay is key to keeping your central office afloat amid legal changes.

2. It takes money.

It goes without saying, but paid sick leave costs money. And if your district employs a large number of substitutes, the amount of money you pay for their sick leave could increase dramatically, depending on how you handle it.

So what are your options?

Two Methods of Compliance

Districts seeking to comply with California’s sick pay law can follow one of two options, and while one appears simpler on the surface, its cost implications are severe.

  1. The Front-Load Method

    Districts not wishing to manage sick pay accruals can give all of their substitutes 24 hours (three days) of sick pay at the beginning of the year. This convenience does not come cheap, as districts often employ large numbers of substitutes, and they will inevitably end up granting sick pay to employees who wouldn’t have otherwise earned it.

    You can estimate how much it would cost your district to give each eligible substitute their sick leave days up front with this calculator:

    Launch Paid Sick Leave Calculator  


  1. The Accrue-as-You-Work Method

    Districts not wishing to front-load all of their substitutes with sick pay can choose the accrue-as-you-work method. This method requires the regular tracking of substitute eligibility, sick leave accrual and sick time used, but guarantees that you won’t pay for sick leave for substitutes who haven’t worked enough in your district to earn it.

    While this method requires a substantial amount of record keeping for substitute time worked, the right substitute placement and absence management software can manage much of this work for you, and possibly even pay for itself through the time and sick pay it saves the district.

We’ve chosen a method. How do we move forward?

So you’ve chosen a method, and you’ve put in place processes to make sure your employee time is regularly updated. Now what are some best practices to keep in mind moving forward?

Set clear expectations.

Sick pay benefits are important to your employees; especially the ones who aren’t always guaranteed to have them. Once you have a legally approved process in place, be proactive about sharing that process with your employees. Be transparent about why any changes are taking place — such as moving from a manual to an electronic tracking system — and how the change will or will not affect them. A forthright explanation can have a big effect on staff morale.

Document your district’s compliance.
Compliance should have already been a factor in determining your process, but its importance can’t be understated. You’ll do yourself and your staff a huge favor by making sure you have a secure way to document your district’s compliance, not just with paid sick leave, but with your jurisdiction’s labor laws in general.

Finally, talk to other districts! California districts have a lot to learn and offer by communicating with neighboring districts about how they handle relevant legal requirements.

Interested in finding out how Frontline Absence & Time can help your district with leave management? Learn more here.