Between January 1 and September 30, 2021, California legislation mandated supplemental paid sick leave for specified COVID-related absences. (See Labor Code § 247 – 248.3) The legislation expired on September 30, 2021. On Tuesday, January 25, 2022, Governor Newsom and state lawmakers reached an agreement that will again require employers with 26 or more employees to provide eligible employees up to two weeks of supplemental paid sick leave to recover from COVID-19 or care for a family member with COVID-19. The details of the new program, which is part of a budget plan, must still be developed so the rules become more clear. The proposal is expected to be fast-tracked so it can be signed into law quickly.
Some of the features of the proposal and background are as follows:
1. Because it is intended to cover employers with 26 or more employees, smaller employers would be unaffected. They are nevertheless subject to the paid sick leave rules in Labor Code § 245 – 249 and California’s kin-care rules in Labor Code § 233 – 234. (See Section 12.13 of the Wage and Hour Manual For California Employers by Attorney Richard J. Simmons, Partner Sheppard Mullin.)
2. The proposal responds to the rapid spread of the Omicron coronavirus variant. It is intended to encourage employees with the virus to stay home and help slow transmission.
3. Employers must absorb the cost of the supplemental paid sick leave. However, separate proposals are expected to restore tax credits that were suspended and capped two years ago.
4. The new time off benefits are apparently in addition to “COVID exclusion pay.”
5. The proposal will require employers to provide up to 40 hours of flexible paid sick leave to full-time employees who are sick or caring for loved ones.
6. Employees could use up to three days of the paid sick leave to attend a vaccination appointment for themselves or family members and to recover from any symptoms after the vaccination. This provision is intended to make it easier for parents to immunize their children against the virus.
7. To qualify for the additional 40 hours of paid time off, employees must provide proof of a positive coronavirus test. This feature was not part of the 2021 law.
8. Part-time employees would be eligible for sick leave equal to the number of hours they typically work in a week or twice that amount with proof of a positive test.
9. The proposal will be retroactive. This will allow employees to obtain sick leave to cover coronavirus-related absences since January 1, 2022.
10. The legislation will remain in effect until September 30, 2022. It is, of course, possible that the expiration date will be extended at a later time.
11. The paid time off allows parents to stay home from work when their children are sent home from school due to illness or after being exposed.
12. When the prior law expired on September 30, 2021, employees were left with a state minimum of three paid sick days under the Healthy Workplaces, Healthy Families Act” discussed in Section 12.13 of the Wage and Hour Manual for California Employers. (The new 2022 edition will be available in February and will be featured as a textbook at Castle Publications upcoming Wage and Hour Laws Program scheduled for March 15, 2022).
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