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California State Employee Paid Time Off

Vacation, Sick and Other Paid Time Off

Vacation and Sick Leave

When people think about why they're trying to get a job with the State of California, the reason is often the generous vacation and sick leave employees receive. Whether you're a parent with kids to take care of, someone who likes to travel, or you're burnt out from working 70 hours a week in the private sector, California State jobs can help you get the work-life balance you need. The paid time off from work is one of the many reasons working in California's public sector can help you achieve a healthy balance between your work and home lives.

The State offers 2 systems of vacation and sick leave to choose from. The first is the traditional Vacation & Sick Leave option and the second is the Annual Leave option. With the traditional system you accrue vacation and sick time separately, but you must use them separately. This means you'll be unable to use your sick leave for a vacation or vacation leave when you're sick. With the Annual Leave program, you accrue fewer hours each month, but you are free to use your time for whatever purpose you choose.

When you first start with the state and opt for the traditional system, non-supervisory employees will earn 7 hours of vacation time and 8 hours of sick leave each month. If you choose Annual Leave, you’ll earn 11 hours per month to use for both sick and vacation time off. If you come in as a manager or supervisor, you’ll earn 7 hours of vacation and 8 hours of sick leave, or 15 hours of Annual Leave per month.

You begin to earn paid time off on your first day of employment. After your first month you’ll be credited with 8 hours of sick leave. Although you begin earning vacation time immediately, you can’t use it right away. After 6 months you’ll be credited with the 42 hours of vacation time you’ve earned and will continue to add 7 more hours each month.

The longer you work for the State, the more paid time off you’ll get each month. Non-supervisors will get a bump from 7 to 10 hours of vacation time each month after 3 years. With the Annual Leave you’ll go from 11 to 14 hours earned each month when you hit your 3-year anniversary.

Additional Types of Time Off

Public Holidays: There are 11 paid public holidays each year for California employees. State workers are also credited a Personal Holiday each year that they can use on a date they choose.

In the case that a public holiday falls on a weekend, State Employees receive Holiday Credit. So, like in 2020 when the 4th of July falls on a Saturday, most State Employees receive 8 hours of time off (Holiday Credit) added to their leave balances. They can then use this credit to take a day off at a future date.

Time Off for Exams and Interviews: State of California employees get paid time off to take exams and go on interviews. The time you take off must be a reasonable amount, and there are some limitations. It’s pretty rare to find a job that pays you while you interview for another one.

Personal Development Days: Most State employees get 2 of these each year. These days are unusual because they are treated as “Use It or Lose It.” They are the only good for one calendar year (June to June), and disappear if you don’t use them. All other paid time off lasts forever.

The State also offers paid leave for bereavement, jury duty and military obligations.

You can read more about the State's bereavement leave policy here.

What Happens to Paid Time Off If You Leave State Service?

Over the course of a career with the state of California, employees are likely to accrue leave balances. Whether it be retirement, transfer or separation, deciding what to do with unused time off is important, especially if you've earned a significant amount over the course of your service.

Generally, employees transferring within state service will be able to take all of their unused leave credits with them. A few types of accrued time off can't be transferred to other departments. But, if they aren't able to be transferred, they will be cashed out to the employee.

Leave Balances When You Transfer Within State Service

When transferring within California state service, employees are allowed to take most of their accumulated leave credits with them. There are some exceptions for those transferring into the University of California and California State University systems and there are also some differences among bargaining units or if you are an excluded employee.

Another factor to consider is the type of leave program you participate in. Leave benefits are accrued and accumulated differently depending on whether you are enrolled in the state’s Traditional Leave (vacation and sick time) or Annual Leave program. When transferring, employees should consult with both their “transferring to” and “transferring from” personnel offices, and carefully read their union contract.

Calculating A Leave Balance Pay-Out

The rate at which unused leave is paid is based on an employee's hourly wage at the time of separation. Salaried employees can determine their equivalent hourly rate of pay by dividing their Gross Monthly Pay by 173.333. For example, an employee with a monthly salary of $4,200 earns an hourly equivalent of $24.23 (4,200/173.333). If, upon separation, the same employee had 100 hours of unused Annual Leave, they could expect a payout of about $2,423 before taxes.

Deferring A Lump Sum Pay-Out

If receiving a lump-sum payment for unused leave, State Employees have the option of “deferring” the payment through a 401(k)/457(a) account with Savings Plus. Instead of receiving, (and paying taxes!) on the payment, employees can have it deposited into one of these accounts tax-free where it will be distributed (and taxed) gradually throughout retirement.

Someone making a salary of $35,000 in 2019 would have an effective tax rate of 12%. This means that most of the money they earned during the year would be taxed by the Federal government at 12%. If the same person received a lump-sum payout of $5,000 in addition to their $35,000 salary it would bump them up to the 22% Federal tax bracket.

By deferring their lump-sum separation payout, this person would be able to save money on their tax bill. Plus, the deferred money could be invested and grow tax-free until retirement.

Additional Links and Information

The benefits package available to State of California employees is hard to beat and the leave benefits are among the most valuable you’ll find. Check out the links below for more information. Good luck in your job search!

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