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California Healthy Workplace Healthy Family Act Explained

Emanuel Shirazi

The Healthy Workplace Healthy Family Act (yes, healthy is repeated twice in the law’s name) is an example of California’s investment in the workforce. This is one of the most important laws that govern an employee’s ability to take sick leave. Under the law, employees have the right to earn one hour of sick leave for every 30 hours they work as long as they work a minimum of 30 days within a calendar year. The dynamics of this law can be confusing because of its evolution through amendments.

Understanding how this law has changed over the years can help you ensure your rights are being honored and allow you the pathway to fight for them when they are violated.

Healthy Workplace Healthy Family Act of 2014

When this law was originally passed, it was to ensure that employees had the right to time off in support of themselves and their families. In its original form, employees were allowed to begin accruing sick time after their first 90 days of employment. It allowed employers to limit the usage of sick time to 24 hours in a calendar year and allow unused time to carry over to the next year, capping off at 48.

However, the law only covered employees who were not part of collective bargaining agreements, in-home supportive service providers, certain employees of airlines, and certain retirees.

Employees have a right to use this time for themselves or the care of others and may request the time off in writing or verbally to their employer. Any employee who requests to use their sick time is also free from employer retaliation for doing so. Every employer in California is subject to the terms of the act.

2023 Expansion

In September 2023, the state expanded the parameters around the sick leave mandates provided under Healthy Workplace Healthy Families. The bill, S.B. 616, was signed into law by the governor on October 4, 2023, and is set to take effect on January 1, 2024. Some of the significant changes include:

  • Increases sick time usage. Under the current law, employees can take up to 24 hours, or three days, of sick time within a calendar year. However, under the new regulations, an employee will have the right to take up to 40 hours, or five days, of sick time. Some employers choose to allow employees to accrue sick time throughout the year, while others will grant it up front, requiring they adjust processes to accommodate the change.
  • Increases carryover. If an employee does not use all of their sick time accrual, it can be carried over to the next year. The new changes will increase the cap of accrual with carryover hours from its current 48 hours to a total of 80 hours.
  • Documentation. Neither the original law nor the recent changes require employees to provide documentation for the use of their qualified sick leave. The hours are protected outright, and an employee may use them without penalty, nor are they required to show evidence of their purpose.

One other major change to note is its application to collective bargaining agreements. In its original form, mandated sick leave exempted collective bargaining agreements. However, under the changes, employers must have a clause in the collective bargaining agreement that specifically addresses sick leave mandates, no requirement for finding a replacement while the employee is on leave, and zero retaliation for an employee who chooses to use sick leave.

Remaining the Same

There are many aspects of the act that remain the same, however. These consistencies include:

  • No requirement to cash out sick leave accrual at termination when the final paycheck is provided
  • If sick leave was not cashed out, an employee whose employment is terminated and is then rehired within one year regains their unused time
  • The employer has the discretion to advance sick leave pay as they wish
  • The amount of sick leave an employee has earned must be provided on a pay stub or in other documentation
  • Employees must advise their employer of intent to use paid sick leave as soon as possible
  • Sick leave is required to be paid on the next pay cycle from which it was taken


Q: What Is the Healthy Family and Workplace Act in California?

A: The act provides the regulations that both employers and employees must follow for paid sick leave in California. Under the act, employees who work a minimum of 30 days in a calendar year have the right to earn one hour of paid sick time for every 30 hours worked. Recent changes have pushed the maximum accrual per year from 24 hours to 40 hours.

Q: What Is a Designated Person Under the Healthy Workplace Healthy Families Act?

A: Under the original HWHFA of 2014, employees could use their sick leave to care for a family member. In a 2022 revision, this was updated to include a designated person. This person is someone whom the employee views in a familial role. Under the act, however, an employee is only allowed to designate one person per calendar year for whom they will use this time.

Q: What Is a Healthy Workplace Environment?

A: Healthy workplaces are those designed to support healthy behavior patterns. Often, this could include an environment that encourages healthy life choices in areas of diet, exercise, or extent of care. This attitude is a part of the HWHFA in that it provides employees with a worry-free way to take the necessary sick time they need without fear of retaliation in order to promote their personal well-being.

Q: What Is the Sick Leave Law in California 2023?

A: The sick leave law follows the regulations outlined in the 2014 HWHFA. However, this act has been amended several times, including in 2022 and again in 2023. The recent changes outlined in SB 616 sought to expand the sick leave law to allow more paid sick time leave per year for employees in order to encourage their own health or to help care for another.

California Employment Law Attorneys

The Healthy Workplace Healthy Family Act is important for the well-being of workers across the state. Knowing what protections you have when you are sick or need to care for another can help you put your mind at ease about your job and keep you focused on what’s important. If you have questions about how the 2023 changes in SB 616 may impact you, contact Shirazi Law Firm today and speak with one of our attorneys.

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