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San Francisco Adopts Public Health Emergency Leave Ordinance

From Navigating COVID-19

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San Francisco voters passed Proposition G, a new public health emergency leave ordinance (PHELO) which takes effect on October 1, 2022. A copy of the proposition can be found here.

Leave is available only during a public health emergency, as defined by law. The public health emergency can be one declared by the federal or state government or declared locally by the City of San Francisco.

Effective October 1, 2022, businesses with 100 or more employees worldwide must provide up to 80 hours of paid public health emergency leave to each employee who performs work in San Francisco. There is no minimum length of time the employee must work in order to be eligible for the leave and the leave is available to both part-time and temporary employees. The paid leave is in addition to any other paid time off, including paid sick leave under the San Francisco paid sick leave ordinance. Employers are required to post notice of this new law. The poster can be found here.

Employees may use this leave when they are unable to work (or telework) due to the following:

  1. The recommendations or requirements of an individual or general federal, state, or local health order (including an order issued by the local jurisdiction in which an employee or a family member the employee is caring for resides) related to the public health emergency.
  2. The employee, or a family member the employee is caring for, has been advised by a healthcare provider to isolate or quarantine.
  3. The employee, or a family member the employee is caring for, is experiencing symptoms of and is seeking a medical diagnosis for, or has received a positive medical diagnosis of, a possible infectious, contagious, or communicable disease associated with a public health emergency.
  4. The employee is caring for a family member whose school or place of care has been closed, or the care provider of a family member is unavailable, due to the public health emergency.
  5. An air quality emergency, if the employee is a member of a vulnerable population and primarily works outdoors.


The leave is available only during the public health emergency. Employers are not required to payout any unused leave. Employers of healthcare providers and emergency responders may limit this leave in accordance with the ordinance.

An employer may require a doctor’s note or other documentation to confirm an employee’s status as a member of a vulnerable population if that employee uses public health emergency leave for a use inapplicable to an employee who is not a member of the vulnerable population. Employees who assert their right to receive public health emergency leave are protected from retaliation.

Currently, there are two public health emergencies declared by the City and County of San Francisco Department of Public Health. The first is COVID-19 which was declared a public health emergency on March 6, 2020, and the second is the monkeypox virus which was declared a public health emergency on August 1, 2022. Therefore, eligible employees can use up to 80 hours for qualifying absences related to the COVID-19 public health emergency and the monkeypox public health emergency as declared in the City and County of San Francisco.

The declarations of public health emergencies can be found here and here.



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