Governor Gavin Newsom, Senate President Toni Atkins (D-San Diego), and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (D-Lakewood) announced on Tuesday that workers will once again have two weeks of supplemental paid sick leave for COVID-19, COVID-19 quarantining, and recovering from COVID-19 vaccine side effects through a new legislative proposal.
In March of last year SB 95 was signed into law, which gave an additional two weeks off in paid vacation for all workers in the state at businesses with 26 or more employees to recover from COVID-19, as well as other periphery needs, such as staying home to care for children with COVID-19. The bill retroactively was pushed to January 1st and expired on September 30th following a sharp drop in COVID-19 cases.
However, due to the recent spike in COIVID-19 cases, specifically through the omicron variant, the Governor and the leaders of the Senate and the Assembly came together to return the supplemental sick leave in 2022. While the proposed sick leave largely follows the 2021 boundaries, a few significant changes have been added for the 2022 proposal.
Workers and teleworkers who caught COVID-19, are experiencing symptoms, are caring for a child or other family member with the virus, are getting the vaccine or booster, are experiencing symptoms from getting the vaccine, or are quarantining will get up to two weeks of supplemental days off once again. And, like 2021, the 2022 sick leave would retroactively extend from January 1st to September 30th. Once again, the law would apply only to those companies with 26 or more employees.
Businesses, who would be the ones 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 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. Part-time workers would also go from receiving two weeks to getting an equivalent amount based on the number of hours worked each week.
The return of COVID paid sick leave
Governor Newsom said on Tuesday that he hopes that the legislation would be passed soon, as the leave is needed now due to the number of Californians already running out of paid sick days.
“California’s ability to take early budget action will protect workers and provide real relief to businesses reeling from this latest surge,” said Newsom at the press conference on Tuesday. “Throughout this pandemic, we have come together to address the immediate impacts COVID-19 continues to have on millions of California families, both at home and at work. 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 also ensuring that businesses and our economy are able to thrive. We will continue to work to address additional needs of small businesses through the budget – they are the backbone of our communities and continue to be impacted by COVID-19.”
Labor Unions, which had pushed for the return of the legislation also due to the spike in new COVID cases and employees already running out of sick days, praised the return of the supplemental paid sick leave days.
“California’s unions are fighting tooth and nail to ensure that no worker has to choose between going to work sick or feeding her family,” explained California Labor Federation executive-secretary treasurer Art Pulaski. “The labor movement supports the proposal announced by the governor and legislative leadership to extend COVID paid sick leave, providing much-needed relief to essential workers and their families. Not only does this measure protect workers, it’s vital to tamping down the surge and keeping schools and businesses open.”
Business leaders, however, were still disappointed by the probable return of the sick days, despite gaining more concessions this time.
“It hurt companies last year because they had to pay these days off themselves, something which they didn’t anticipate,” said Lincoln Taylor, a payroll advisor for multiple small businesses in California. “And again, essentially giving all employees 1-2 weeks more of paid days off is going to wreak havoc. Tax credits, loans, grants, and this years proof of COVID only go so far. At the end of the day, these businesses are still shelling out cold hard cash for these days off. Except for those in current hiring snags right now, especially those who rely on minimum wage workers, companies would be generally in favor of more sick days if they didn’t have to pick up the bill, as a healthier workforce is generally better. But the bill isn’t directly compensating them.”
“Whenever people ask how California can hurt businesses so much, it’s the little things like this. Sadly, it looks like it will continue.”
The new legislation is expected to be fast tracked as part of Newsom’s early budget actions, with approval expected soon.
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