UPDATED March 31, 2020

Mayor London Breed announced the Workers and Families First Program (Program) to provide paid sick leave for private sector workers impacted by coronavirus (COVID-19).  The plan provides that the city of San Francisco (City) will set aside $10 million in public funding for businesses and nonprofits to provide up to five days of sick leave pay beyond any existing policies currently offered to their workers.  The program is available pursuant to San Francisco’s Paid Sick Leave Ordinance (PSLO) and the guidance issued by San Francisco’s Office of Labor Standards Enforcement (OLSE). The Office of Economic and Workforce Development and the Human Services Agency will jointly administer the program.  

Which Employers are Eligible for the Program? 

All San Francisco businesses are eligible. The City has provided that 20% of funds are reserved for small businesses with 50 or fewer employees.  

What are the Requirements? 

The Program will be available for employees to utilize when they take leave pursuant to San Francisco’s PSLO, which states that employees are eligible when they are: 

  • Sick; 
  • Self-quarantined to prevent spread; 
  • Caring for a sick family member; 
  • Home because of a temporary work closure in response to a public official’s recommendation; or 
  • Caring for a child who is home because of school/daycare closures in response to a public official’s recommendation.

In addition to expanding the uses of accrued sick leave under San Francisco PSLO, on March 24, 2020, San Francisco OLSE issued the following guidance on the use of PSLO leave during the duration of the current local health emergency regarding COVID-19:

  • Employers may not require a doctor’s note or other documentation for the use of paid sick leave taken pursuant to the San Francisco PSLO
  • San Francisco paid sick leave is available to employees.  Workers that have been laid off by their employer are no longer eligible for paid sick leave.
  • Employees who have their hours reduced or eliminated are not entitled to use accrued paid sick leave to account for such reductions or eliminations.  Employees who remain scheduled to work may continue to use their accrued paid sick leave for any qualifying reason for any portion of their scheduled hours they are unable to work.
  • Employers are not required to pay employees for accrued unused paid sick leave upon the employee’s separation from employment.  However, if an employer is using a Paid Time Off or vacation policy to comply with the Ordinance, California law requires the payout of PTO or vacation upon separation of an employee.
  • If there is a separation from employment, and an employee is later rehired by the employer within one year, previously accrued and unused paid sick leave must be reinstated, and the employee is entitled to use the previously accrued and unused paid sick leave and to accrue additional paid sick leave upon rehiring.

When will with City Provide Financial Assistance Through the Program?

The City will provide financial assistance through the Program only if:  

1)  the employee has exhausted their currently available sick leave;  

2) the employee is not eligible for (or has exhausted) federal or state supplemental sick leave, and  

3) the employer agrees to extend sick leave beyond their existing benefits and policies. Absent further clarification by the City, this indicates that financial assistance from the Program will only be available if employers agree to extend the amount of days available under their existing sick leave policies in response to COVID-19. 

What Funding will the Program Provide? 

The City will contribute up to one week (40 hours) at the city’s minimum wage of $15.59 per hour per employee, or $623 per employee. The employer will be responsible for paying the difference between the minimum wage and an employee’s hourly wage. No cap on the required difference in pay has been announced at this time and we are awaiting further guidance on the employer responsibility under the Program.  

How can Employers Apply to the Program? 

The City has indicated that applications for the Program will be made available to employers here later this week. Further information on the application process is anticipated.  


Assistance & Guidance for Businesses and Workers Impacted by COVID-19 

San Francisco Public Health Order (March 16, 2020) 

San Francisco Dept. Of Health – Coronavirus Webpage  

San Francisco Office of the Mayor – COVID-19 Declarations 

The information and materials on this blog are provided for informational purposes only and are not intended to constitute legal or tax advice. Information provided in this blog may not reflect the most current legal developments and may vary by jurisdiction. The content on this blog is for general informational purposes only and does not apply to any particular facts or circumstances. The use of this blog does not in any way establish an attorney-client relationship, nor should any such relationship be implied, and the contents do not constitute legal or tax advice. If you require legal or tax advice, please consult with a licensed attorney or tax professional in your jurisdiction. The contributing authors expressly disclaim all liability to any persons or entities with respect to any action or inaction based on the contents of this blog.

Lizet Ramirez – Lizet is a Client Compliance Manager for Sequoia One, where she works with our clients to optimize and streamline benefits compliance. In her free time, Lizet enjoys live music, travel, hiking and spa days.