For many families, nannies are considered superheroes. Let’s be honest: they do it all. So what happens when they get sick? Even Superman needs some time off to rest and recover, right? Given all they do, it’s only natural that their absence will be felt.

To prepare you for the inevitable, here’s what you should know when your nanny calls in sick.

Existing State Law

In California, Paid Sick Leave (PSL) is a permanent law that mandates employers to provide at least 24 hours, or three days, off each year to employees, including full-time, part-time and temporary workers, who meet these qualifications: (1) worked for the same employer for at least 30 days within a year in California and (2) completed a 90-day employment period before taking any paid sick leave.

Your nannies are no exemption. They are entitled to a paid sick leave, which they can use to recover from physical/mental illness or injury, to seek medical diagnosis, treatment, or preventative care, to care for a family member or other designated individual who is ill or needs medical diagnosis, treatment, or preventative care, or to address needs that may arise if they are a victim of domestic violence, a sexual offense, or stalking.

PSL Policies

Using the state-mandated hours for paid sick leave as a baseline, you as employers can always choose to provide more PSL hours or days off for your nannies. This can be accomplished through either a frontloading or accrual method. The frontloading method allows all of the 24 hours or three days to be given to nannies all at once, while the accrual method allows them to have 1 hour PSL for each 30 hours of work (1:30 schedule) with a limit of up to 48 hours. Accruals begin on the 1st day of employment. Employers may limit use until after 90 days of employment but are not required to do so.

Chelsea Mills, Partner Relations Manager at HomePay℠, recommends the accrual method, as does the state. “The accrual method leads to more hours for the employee while also tying the earned benefits to the employee’s tenure.” shares Mills.

Although the accrual method may seem more administratively complex for busy families, this is where HomePay℠ comes in. “Sick leave usage is tracked in our system, and the year-to-date total is listed on the employee’s paystubs we prepare. If the client selects the accrual option, our system automatically runs the calculation each pay period based on the hours worked” explains Mills. She also said that if the family is not using a service like HomePay℠, they should make sure that they have a record of the hours worked each week, so that they can break down how many sick time hours are being earned based on the 1:30 schedule. Either way, these earned leaves must be reflected on your nanny’s pay stub.

Although California state has set paid hours and safe limits, some states (and cities!) have additional requirements. Some are more lenient and provide longer PSL hours for their employees.

Cities with additional PSL requirements

Several cities in California, such as Berkeley, Emeryville, Los Angeles, Oakland, San Diego (city only), San Francisco, Santa Monica, and West Hollywood have their own sick leave policies that are favorable to employees.

In Berkeley and Emeryville, employees can accrue paid sick leave at the rate of 1 hour for every thirty (30) hours worked, up to a maximum of forty-eight (48) hours. Accrued Paid Sick Leave for employees carries over from year to year (whether calendar year or fiscal year), but shall not exceed the aforementioned caps.

In Los Angeles, employers who choose the front-loading method must select one type of anniversary, either at the beginning of each year of employment, calendar year, or 12-month period. At each anniversary date, all 48 hours must be provided to an employee. On the other hand, employers who choose the accrual method must provide the employee one (1) hour of sick leave per every thirty (30) hours worked up to a maximum of seventy-two (72) hours at any one time.

In San Francisco City, employers may allow employees to accrue up to at least 48 hours or provide an “advance” of 24 hours or 3 days of paid sick leave to comply with the State law “up-front option,” and later allow employees to accrue up to 40 hours to comply with SF law.

In Oakland and Santa Monica, employees accrue 1 hour of sick time for every 30 hours worked and household employers must provide up to 40 hours of sick leave per year.

In San Diego City, employees must accrue no less than one (1) hour of earned sick leave for every thirty (30) hours worked within the geographic boundaries of the City; employers may cap the total accrual of sick leave at eighty (80) hours or a front-loaded method of no less than 40 hours at the beginning of the benefit year. Also, aside from the state-mandated reasons for earning a sick leave, it can also be used for public health emergencies resulting in the closure of the employee’s worksite, childcare provider, or child’s school.

In West Hollywood, the ordinance is not sick leave-specific. Household employers must provide up to 96 hours of compensated time off (CTO) each year. CTO already includes sick leave, vacation, or personal necessity; an additional 80 hours of uncompensated sick time must also be given.

If you are outside the state of California, it’s encouraged to check your state and city’s labor requirements. “But, in general, the family is always welcome to give their employees sick time even when not required to do so; we encourage it. We often see three to five days of paid sick leave that is generally offered for long term placements, at a minimum. We always would encourage that, but legal requirements would depend on their state and city”, reiterates Mills.

While there are state laws and ordinances that protect both employers and employees from the get-go, we always encourage you to seek independent counsel when preparing and/or providing legal documents to your nannies.

What if my nanny has used up all their sick leave?

If your nanny has utilized all their paid sick leave, Mills advises that it would be up to the family if they want to offer more paid sick leave or offer unpaid ones.

“That’s where these state and city guidelines come in, it is to make sure that there’s a standard minimum for what these employees have available to them. If the family wants to offer more paid leave, or even more unpaid leave, they can do that,” Mills added.

If your nanny hasn’t used up all of their sick leave, the state mandates that the time can be carried over from year to year (whether calendar year or fiscal year). For example, if your nanny has 48 hours accrued and used only 8 hours of sick time, that puts the balance at 40 hours. However, you have the ability to limit it so your nanny can only use 24 hours of sick time per year, no matter how much is accrued. Also, when it’s time to part ways with your nanny, you are not required to pay out any accrued unused paid sick leave.

Final thoughts

These state and city laws and ordinances are in place to ensure that your employee is protected. But beyond what’s required, the final say goes to you. You know your nanny and your family best! So you can always choose to go beyond what is required when it comes to giving your nanny additional PSL.

“In addition to including paid sick leave details in the contract/agreement, communication is key. By nature, sick leave will usually be unexpected. Maintaining supportive, open dialogue throughout the employment relationship goes a long way toward ensuring that both parties are taken care of,” says Mills in providing paid sick leave to nannies.

We know having a nanny call in sick might be a day-altering moment, so it’s also suggested that you have a back-up plan in place. You may consider asking a nearby family member or seeking the help of a trusted neighbor or friend who can lend a hand for the day. We acknowledge that it really isn’t easy to be without your superhero nanny, even for a day, but realizing that it’s a two-way street and understanding that they also need to tend to themselves, or their family members can only help result in a good and lasting nanny-family relationship.

For more information on FAQs about Paid Sick Leave, you may also visit the website of the State of California Department of Industrial Relations.