Nearly all California employees are now covered by the state’s mandatory Paid Sick Leave law that went into effect last July. The Paid Sick Leave law (Labor Code §245) requires employers to provide employees up to three days of paid sick leave annually. Paid sick leave can be used for the diagnosis, care, or treatment, or for preventive care, of the employee’s own health condition or the health condition of a “family member.” “Family member” is defined to include the employee’s child, parent, spouse, registered domestic partner, grandparent, grandchild or sibling. It also includes biological, adoptive, or foster children, parents, stepparents, and legal guardians of the employee or the employee’s spouse or registered domestic partner.
Before passing the statewide Paid Sick Leave law, California had in place the “Kin Care” law (Labor Code §233). The Kin Care law permits an employee to use up to one-half of his or her accrued paid sick leave time to attend to an illness of the employee’s child, parent, spouse, or domestic partner. This leave applies to biological, adoptive, or foster children, parents, stepparents, and legal guardians of the employee or the employee’s spouse or registered domestic partner. Currently, the Kin Care law does not cover grandparents, grandchildren or siblings. Because of this difference in terminology, an employee’s use of sick leave might count against the employee’s Paid Sick Leave entitlement but not against the employee’s Kin Care leave.
To reconcile the differences in the two paid sick leave laws, an amendment to the Kin Care law that uses the Paid Sick Leave law’s definition of covered “family members” was recently signed into law. The amendment also allows an employee to use Kin Care leave for the diagnosis, care, or treatment of an existing health condition or for preventive care. The broader definition of “family member” and additional purposes of Kin Care leave will require employees to take greater care in balancing their own health care needs with the needs of family members. The broader scope of the Kin Care law also gives employers administrative clarity in tracking leave requests, particularly where the employer has a paid sick leave policy more generous than the required minimum. The Kin Care amendment goes into effect January 1, 2016.