On December 14, 2021, San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors unanimously passed legislation providing domestic workers with paid sick leave – the first of its kind in the United States.  The ordinance, called “Domestic Workers’ Equal Access to Paid Sick Leave,” establishes a “portable” paid sick leave benefit that allows people who work for multiple households to earn and consolidate benefits from several “hiring entities” and access that paid leave as they move between jobs.

How will this work for employers of domestic workers?  Under the ordinance, domestic workers accrue right to paid sick leave equal to not less than one hour of net pay, at the domestic worker’s regular rate of pay, for every 30 hours of work.  Both the hiring entity and the domestic worker are responsible for reporting the number of hours of work and net pay rate pay to the “paid sick leave system.”  While the right to sick leave funds accrue in hour-unit increments, the funds are not transferred from the hiring entity to the domestic worker until the domestic worker requests the funds.  Additionally, the hiring entity is responsible for any tax withholding or tax reporting obligations for the contribution at the time the paid sick leave funds are transferred.

This ordinance is expected to affect the approximate 10,000 domestic workers in San Francisco who work in private homes.  Under the ordinance, a “domestic worker” includes any individual who is employed by or contracts with a hiring entity to provide labor or services in a residence:

  • caring for a child; serving as a companion or providing other non-medical care or services for a sick, convalescing, disabled, or senior person;
  • cleaning, cooking, providing food or butler service;
  • gardening;
  • personal organizing;
  • or performing other in-home personal or domestic service.

A “domestic worker” also includes an individual who, as part of their employment or contract, resides in the personal residence of the hiring entity.  The ordinance defines a “hiring entity” as any person, as defined in Section 18 of the California Labor Code, including corporate officers or executives, who directly or indirectly or through an agent or any other person, including through the services of a temporary services or staffing agency or similar entity, employs, contracts with, or hires a domestic worker.  Once it takes effect, the program will be administered by the San Francisco Office of Economic and Workforce Development, which has also been tasked with facilitating the creation of an app to track the benefit and transfer the funds from a hiring entity to a domestic worker.

Before it takes effect, the ordinance requires a second vote by the Board of Supervisors, as well as the signature of Mayor London Breed.  The ordinance is expected to take effect some time in 2022 if these additional steps are taken.  Employers of domestic workers in San Francisco should consult with their employment counsel to ensure they are in compliance with the ordinance once it becomes law.