Get ready for some legislative changes beginning on January 1, 2021. These are a few highlights for small business owners to take note of as the new year begins. Many of the new laws deliver more resources for employees while others strengthen existing laws. 

Minimum Wage Increase
Most notably, as of January 1, 2021, most employees in California must be paid the minimum wage of $14 per hour. The increase stems from legislation signed by Gov. Jerry Brown in 2015 that launched a wage progression. Effective January 1, 2021 the minimum wage will be $14 per hour for employers with 26 or more employees and $13 for employers with 25 or fewer employees. Small businesses, take note of this big change!

Family Leave Expansion
Senate Bill 1383 was authored by Sen. Hannah Beth Jackson, Dem. Santa Barbara. Under this legislation, family leave of up to 12 weeks will now include employers with 5 or more employees. Until now, this leave applied only to employers with 50 or more employees. 

Employers will be required to grant employees up to 12 work weeks of unpaid protected leave during any 12-month period to bond with a new child or to care for themselves or a child, parent, grandparent, grandchild, sibling, spouse, or domestic partner. 

Covid-Positive in the Workplace
Under Assembly Bill 685, private employers who receive notice of a potential exposure to COVID-19 must do the following within one business day:

  • Provide written notice to all employees who were on the premises at the same worksite as the “qualifying individualâ€within the infectious period that they may have been exposed to COVID-19

  • Provide information regarding COVID-19-related benefits to all employees who may have been exposed 

  • Provide notice to all employees of the employer’s disinfection and safety plan per CDC guidelines

The Bill also allows the California Department of Public Health to shut down a business if the agency determines that an outbreak exists.

 Expanded Employee Leave
Written by Assemblywoman Shirley Weber, Dem. Chula Vista, Assembly Bill 2992 expands employee leave provisions for victims of domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking. 

Other Notable Legislation

  1. One provision of AB 1867 is pertinent to small businesses: it requires employees working in any food facility to be permitted to wash their hands every 30 minutes and additionally as needed.

  2. The classification of independent contractors drew a lot of scrutiny in 2019 under Assembly Bill 5. In 2021, AB 2257 makes some significant changes that include the expansion of the scope of exempted industries to include licensed landscape architects, real estate appraisers, photographers, and a host of others. 

  3. SB 1159 addresses employees who get sick or injured due to COVID-19 on or after July 6, 2020, and creates a presumption that any COVID-19 related illness of an employee was presumed to arise out of and in the course of employment for purposes of awarding workers’ compensation benefits if certain requirements are met

Understanding new and updated legislation is often a challenge. If you need assistance, please contact West Center for advice and support: 707-964-7571 or