A bill that would once again give employees an additional two weeks of supplemental paid sick leave for COVID-19, COVID-19 quarantining, caring for those sick with COVID-19, and recovering from COVID-19 vaccine side effects passed in the state legislature on Monday.
Senate Bill 114, which was introduced by the Committee on Budget and Fiscal Review, would mirror last year’s SB 95 and allow all workers at businesses with 26 or more employees to have another 80 hours, or two standard working weeks, of paid sick time off. And, like 2021, the 2022 sick leave would retroactively extend from January 1st to September 30th.
However, businesses, which would be paying for the sick leave out of pocket once again, demanded more concessions for the 2022 sick leave proposal, noting that many are still struggling, and that the loss of workers under the program last year had hurt so many business as a result.
For the 2022 proposal, in addition to the return of business tax credits and the small business relief grant program, employers would only need to give 40 hours of paid leave for COVID without question, with the other 40 hours requiring a positive COVID test.
Business interest changes in SB 114 would also only allow 3 days, or 24 work hours, to attend a vaccine appointment or recover from COVID-19 side effects. In addition, part-time workers would go from receiving two weeks to getting an equivalent amount based on the number of hours worked each week.
The legislation was first backed by Governor Gavin Newsom, Senate President Toni Atkins (D-San Diego), and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (D-Lakewood) in late January as a way to help fight back against the recent spike in COIVID-19 omicron variant cases and to financially help those who had to take time off during the spike in cases in January but were not compensated for their time off adequately due to the previous SB 95 bill expiring on September 30th, 2021. Labor unions and other workers groups had been petitioning the Governor and other lawmakers since later last year for another round of COVID-19 paid leave and backed both SB 114 and the near duplicate AB 84.
Legislators quickly passed the bill on Monday, with the Assembly passing it 55-7 and the Senate passing it only hours later, 30-7. SB 114 is now on the desk of Governor Newsom and is expected to be signed soon.
Lawmakers, union leaders, business leaders weigh in on bill implications
Union leaders and legislators in favor of the bill praised the bill being passed easily on Monday, noting that workers would be protected under the bill.
“As the Omicron surge intensified, workers screamed from the rooftops about the desperate need to reinstate COVID paid sick leave,” said outgoing California Labor Federation (CLF) Executive Secretary-Treasurer Art Pulaski in a statement on Monday. “The Governor and Legislature heard frontline workers loud and clear, and we appreciate them acting with urgency to get this done. Once again, California shows it’s a national leader on worker protections and COVID mitigation.”
Legislators also noted hope that the bill would help further slow the spread of COVID-19, with Senator Nancy Skinner saying that “We all are quite aware of the surge of COVID-19 cases, and this act will help ensure that those employees that are sick can take the paid sick leave that they need so all of us are protected.”
Proud to vote in support of extending #paidsickleave today. We need to ensure workers can recover at home & reduce the spread w/o worrying about making ends meet. #SB114 gives workers at least 40 hours of pay lost to COVID-19 & applies retroactively from Jan. 1 to Sept. 30, 2022. pic.twitter.com/6gssE6gqiz
— Assemblymember Chris Ward (@AsmChrisWard) February 7, 2022
Business leaders, largely assuaged by the multiple new parts added to the bill that limits how employees can utilize the extended time off, also positively noted the health aspects of the bill while at the same time pointing out that businesses themselves would be paying for it.
“California employers continue to do their part to keep employees and the public safe during this pandemic,” said California Chamber of Commerce President Jennifer Barrera on Tuesday. “The COVID-19 supplemental paid sick leave is another example of this, where employers will take on an additional burden to provide leave, but do so in order to protect the broader public.”
However, those who voted against the bill pointed out that small businesses would be hurt, and that the bill did not give a replacement for the federal tax credit offsets that were in place last year, which lessened the blow of extended sick leave. This year, businesses would have to shoulder even more of the costs.
“This policy that is being rushed through the Legislature needs a tremendous amount more debate and discussion,” explained Assemblyman Vince Fong (R-Bakersfield). “This proposal is going to layer additional costs and burdens on top of an already difficult business environment.”
Other business leaders also remained skeptical of the benefits of SB 114.
“Businesses are again having to pay for more time off,” added Lincoln Taylor, a payroll advisor for multiple small businesses in California, to the Globe on Tuesday. “And with a shortage of workers right now, many of the smaller employers being covered are literally paying to have fewer people working. It’s incredible if any thought whatsoever is given to it.”
Governor Gavin Newsom is expected to sign the bill into law soon.