What are the laws in California for breaks, meals and sick pay?

On Behalf of | Jun 12, 2024 | Wage & Hour |

Employees in California have state-level rights that are better than federal rights. Some of these have to do with rest breaks, meal periods and sick pay. These concerns aren’t generally addressed in federal laws.

It’s up to employers to ensure they’re providing these benefits to employees. They also need to stay abreast of the changes that occur when the law evolves. For example, a major update was made for sick pay at the start of 2024.

Rest breaks

California law mandates that non-exempt employees must receive a 10-minute rest break for every four hours worked or a major fraction of that time. These breaks must be paid and are considered part of the employee’s workday. If an employee works less than three and a half hours, a rest break isn’t required. Employers must provide rest breaks as close to the middle of the work period as possible.

Meal periods

Employers must also provide a meal period for non-exempt employees who work more than five hours in a day. The meal period must be at least 30 minutes long and must be taken no later than the end of the fifth hour of work. Meal periods are unpaid, and during this time, employees must be completely relieved of all duties.

If the workday is no more than six hours, the employee may waive the meal period by mutual consent with the employer. For workdays exceeding 10 hours, a second meal period of at least 30 minutes must be provided, unless the total workday is no more than 12 hours and the first meal break wasn’t waived, in which case the second can be waived.

Sick pay

All employees must receive at least 40 hours or five days of sick pay per year. The law requires the employer to provide whichever is the higher of these two. This is an increase that started on January 1, 2024. Before then, the law was three days or 24 hours per year. The sick pay requirement applies to any employee who has been with the company for at least 30 days. This includes full-time, per diem, temporary and part-time employees. Even people who work for employment agencies are covered by this requirement.

Understanding these aspects of California wage and hour laws can help employees to ensure that they get paid what they’re due. When concerns arise, seeking personalized legal guidance can result in clarity and the benefits of support.