What’s the Deal on Vacations, PTO, and Sick Leave?

Updated April 6, 2024

Holidays, Vacations, PTO, and Sick Time

Regarding holiday pay, holiday hours, work, and vacation pay. In California, you’re actually not required to offer any of those if employees work on a holiday. Again, you’re not required to pay time and a half. You’re not required to pay holiday pay if they’re not working. And in California, you’re not required to offer vacation or PTO time.

Sick time, you are required to pay under the law. But vacation and PTO, you are not.

So, employees, this is probably not great news for you, but employers, it’s good to know. And it might save you some money.

Employee Vacations

A California employer must pay an employee for unused, accumulated vacations and personal leave (to be calculated on a daily pro-rata basis) upon termination if the employment contract or employment policy established paid vacation or personal leave. A “use it or lose it” policy is not permissible.

An employer may not require a new employee to work a specified number of days or reach an anniversary date before using earned vacation or personal leave.

Vacations, PTO, and Sick Leave

An employer may limit the number of consecutive vacation days taken and control the scheduling of vacation days. Additionally, an employer may limit total accrued vacation hours by compensating employees as vacation time accrues or by setting a limit on the amount of vacation time that can be accrued. These limitations must be expressly stated by an employer.

There is no legal requirement in California that an employer provide its employees with either paid or unpaid vacation time.

Paid Time Off (PTO)

Paid time off (PTO) refers to employer-developed programs that consolidate vacation and sick leave into one. No California law requires employers to implement this benefit program. However, when implemented, like vacation time, a “use it or lose it” policy is not permissible as the unused time “vests” throughout the employee’s term of employment.

Sick Leave

Sick leave in California

California law does not require an employer to pay accumulated sick leave on termination. California does require an employer to allow an employee to use up to one-half of accrued sick leave to care for a family member.

In California, the rules regarding sick pay are governed by the Healthy Workplaces, Healthy Families Act of 2014. This law requires employers to provide paid sick leave to their employees.

Here are the key points to know:

  • Accrual of Paid Sick Leave: California employees generally accrue paid sick leave at a rate of one hour for every 30 hours worked. This includes part-time, full-time, temporary, and seasonal employees. **See below for 2024 updated hours.
  • Usage of Paid Sick Leave: Employees can use their accrued sick leave for their own illness, injury, or health condition or for the care of a family member (such as a child, parent, spouse, registered domestic partner, grandparent, grandchild, or sibling) who has a health condition or needs medical care.
  • Usage Waiting Period: Employees are entitled to begin using their accrued sick leave on the 90th day of employment. However, employers may allow employees to use accrued sick leave before the 90th day.
  • Carryover and Accrual Caps: Accrued but unused sick leave must carry over from year to year. However, employers can impose a reasonable cap on the total amount of accrued sick leave an employee can have at any given time. The cap is either 48 hours or 6 days (whichever is greater).
  • Notification and Documentation: Employers can require employees to provide reasonable advance notice of the need to use sick leave, but only if it is feasible. Employers can also require reasonable documentation of the need for sick leave, but only for absences of more than three consecutive days.
  • Rate of Pay: Paid sick leave must be paid at the employee’s regular pay rate. If the employee has different rates of pay, the sick leave is calculated based on the average rate over the previous 90 days.
  • Anti-Retaliation: Employers are prohibited from retaliating against employees who request or use paid sick leave. Employees who believe their rights have been violated can file a complaint with the California Labor Commissioner.

It’s important to note that some cities in California have their own sick leave ordinances that may provide additional benefits to employees. Employers must comply with state and local sick leave laws and follow whichever law is more generous to employees.

California Sick Time 2024 Update

Beginning January 1, 2024, employers in California must increase the amount of sick leave provided from the current 24 hours of leave per year to 40 hours of paid leave per year. If you are in a City or County to requires a higher level, you will still follow your local labor law (i.e., Los Angeles City, San Diego County). 

Hours can still be given in one lump sum for the year or accrued. The accrual permits 40 hours to be used in a single year, with an additional 40 hours to be earned and carried over to the next year.

Does paid sick leave apply to all employees who work in California?

The California sick time law applies to all employers of every size, and all salary and hourly, full-time, part-time, and temporary employees who work in California – they are eligible for the five days of leave provided they work for the same employer for 30 or more calendar days.

Are part-time employees eligible for sick pay?

Yes, starting from January 1, 2024, part-time (and full-time and temporary) employees in California will be entitled to paid sick leave if the same employer has employed them for a minimum of 30 days within a year and have completed a 90-day employment period before utilizing any paid sick leave benefits.

If you need any clarification, please contact us, whether you’re a current client, California Employer, or sole proprietor. We’re here to answer your questions.

When Do We Process Payroll if There’s a Holiday?

If a payday falls on certain holidays and the employer is closed that day, the employer can process payroll the next business day.

The Department of Industrial Relations outlines this requirement in more detail on its blog here. They discuss requirements regarding paydays, pay periods, and final wages.

The holidays referenced above are as follows:

  • Every Sunday
  • January 1 — New Year’s Day
  • Third Monday in January — Martin Luther King Jr. Day
  • February 12 — Lincoln’s Birthday
  • Third Monday in February — Washington’s Birthday
  • March 31 — Cesar Chaves Day
  • Last Monday in May — Memorial Day
  • July 4 — Independence Day
  • First Monday in September — Labor Day
  • September 9 — Admission Day
  • Fourth Friday in September — Native American Day
  • Second Monday in October — Columbus Day
  • November 11 — Veterans Day
  • December 25 — Christmas
  • Good Friday from 12 noon to 3 p.m.
  • Other days appointed by the governor for a public fast, Thanksgiving, or holiday

Here at Pacific Payroll Group, we will notify employers through our newsletter – if their payroll falls on a Federal holiday – and give them the option of requesting their checks sooner.

Do We Have to Pay Employees When We Close Our Business for Holidays?

No federal or state labor law requires employers to pay for holidays.

And there’s no requirement that you have to offer time and a half if employees are going to come in and work; it is all dictated by company policy.

If an employee requests time off on a holiday for religious reasons, the employer can decide on a case-by-case basis.

For example, if a business like a restaurant needs employees to work on holidays, it should be explained in the rules or handbook, making it clear that working on holidays is a crucial part of the job.

We recommend that employers include their holiday pay policy in an employee handbook, a company-wide memo, and/or an offer letter. However, the bottom line is that it’s up to each employer.

Can You Use Vacation Time for Sick Days in California?

Yes, you can request/use vacation time in the event you are sick.

Can You Use Sick Days for Vacation in California?

You are not supposed to! The wording from CA states that employees should not. So employers can deny the request.

If you’re unsure how you’re affected or have HR questions, please do not hesitate to reach out. Be sure to sign up for our newsletter below to keep you updated on any changes.

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