What’s in the Case- CalMatters
Governor Gavin Newsom and legislative leaders agree to restore paid sick leave in California for COVID-19. Here’s what you need to know.
California workers will soon again have access to up to two weeks of paid vacation time for COVID-related sick leave, under an agreement announced today by the governor and legislative leaders.
The deal comes amid the continued rise of omicron and the resulting labor shortages across the state’s workforce, including health care, schools and public transport. And it may be just in time: The number of Californians who didn’t work last month because they or a family member had COVID-19 has risen 320%, analysis shows Census data from the California Budget and Policy Center.
California workers have not had additional paid COVID leave — besides just three days of regular paid sick leave — since a statewide program ended Sept. 30. But the pandemic has peaked again since then. And task forces and advocates have been pushing for months to restore it.
As part of the deal brokered by Governor Gavin Newsom, Senate Pro Tem Speaker Toni Atkins and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, the new furlough scheme will be retroactive to Jan. 1 and extend through Sept. 30. .
In his January 10 budget proposal, Newsom said he wanted furlough reinstated, though the details were unclear. With the agreement, the legislature will act on Newsom’s emergency budget request for COVID-related programs, well ahead of regular budget approval in June.
One of the main negotiating points was to offset the costs for businesses, especially smaller ones. As with the previous holiday, the new holiday only covers employers with 26 or more workers, and the state will provide tax credits to businesses.
“California’s ability to take early fiscal action will protect workers and provide real relief to businesses reeling from this latest surge,” the joint announcement said. “By extending sick leave to frontline workers with COVID and providing support for California businesses, we can help protect the health of our workforce, while ensuring that businesses and our economy can thrive. .”
Here’s what we know about the deal so far:
Who can use the leave?
Any full-time employee of a company that has 26 or more workers is entitled to 40 hours of paid leave due to COVID. This does not cover getting the vaccine or recovering from side effects: in this case, a worker has 24 hours.
But to get an additional 40 hours of paid leave, workers would have to prove they or a family member tested positive. This provision is apparently intended to address the California Chamber’s concerns about possible employee fraud. Employers must pay for and provide the test. If a worker refuses to take a test or shows a positive test result, no additional sick leave will be granted.
Under current health guidelines, anyone who tests positive must quarantine for five days, regardless of their vaccination status. While daily case counts have fallen to an average of 95,000, that’s still significantly higher than during the delta variant surge last year.
The leave will be retroactive to any leave as of January 1st.
What do businesses earn?
Last year, they were reimbursed for the extra paid leave with a federal tax credit, which is no longer available.
This time, companies will have to absorb the costs, but they will be helped by the restoration of tax credits for research and development and net operating losses, through tax relief for recipients of federal subsidies. relief for closed restaurants and venues and additional funding for more small businesses. subsidies.
Cal Chamber President and CEO Jennifer Barrera said any new sick leave mandates should be limited in duration, have “reasonable parameters” and should not overburden businesses.
“Employers are committed to the safety of their employees and the workplace and are well aware of the broad public health consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Barrera said in a statement. “But elected leaders must ensure balanced policy so that private sector employers, who are also struggling to stay afloat during these surges and the wider pandemic, do not unfairly bear the cost of COVID-19.”
What are the labor groups saying?
Unions representing workers in sectors such as health and catering applauded the deal.
“We know we can’t wait for employers to protect us – we have to defend ourselves, and Governor Newsom and lawmakers have listened,” said Bob Schoonover, president of SEIU California. “SEIU members are proud to have participated in this crucial decision that protects our communities – workers and people of color, who have been on the front lines in the fight against this virus.”
The United Food and Commercial Workers Western States Council said workers can stay home without fear of losing two weeks’ pay or their jobs.
“Paid sick leave is an essential part of public health and we urge Governor Newsom and our legislative champions to act immediately to sign legislation ensuring workers can access this basic benefit workers need to stay safe and healthy.
Unions are the main supporters of Democratic officials, and their volunteers and money will be invaluable to lawmakers and the governor in this year’s election. Last year, SEIU paid $6.6 million to help Newsom defeat the recall effort.
A state law gave California workers up to two weeks of additional paid sick leave during COVID-19, but it ended Sept. 30 because a federal tax credit that offsets the cost to employers also expires. Labor groups say the extra leave should be reinstated. And Gov. Gavin Newsom is now saying the legislature should.