Newsom, Lawmakers Reach Deal To Revive COVID-19 Paid Sick Leave

A deal struck between Democratic Governor of California Gavin Newsom and state legislators would revive paid sick leave for reasons related to COVID-19. 

The bill is expected to be quickly sent to Newsom in the next few weeks and would impact all businesses with 26 or more workers. Similar legislation expired in September that gave 80 hours of supplemental paid sick leave, as the Los Angeles Times reported. 

The legislation is intended to assist workers as more people contract the Omicron variant, and children are missing school due to illness or exposure. However, it also comes at a time when businesses all over the country are struggling to retain workers and labor shortages continue to impact the economy. 

The Los Angeles Times reported that in an effort to assist some companies, “the agreement includes separate proposals to restore tax credits that were suspended and capped two years ago.” 

The proposal was reportedly supported by labor unions.

“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,” said Art Pulaski, executive-secretary treasurer of the California Labor Federation. “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.” 

“When workers speak out and stand up for our rights, everyone benefits. Make no mistake: today’s agreement happened because workers who are on the frontlines of the pandemic demanded safety for ourselves, our families and our communities. We spoke up about the impossible choices we faced without enough sick time to recover from COVID-19 without our kids going hungry,” Bob Schoonover, President of the Service Employees International Union California, said in a statement, per Fox 11 Los Angeles. “We know we can’t wait for employers to keep us safe – we have to advocate for ourselves, and Governor Newsom and legislators listened.”

The legislation would require employers to give up to 40 hours of flexible paid leave to employees who are full-time and are either ill or need to take care of a sick loved one. It would also include a requirement for them to show evidence of a positive test to get another 40 hours of paid leave. “Part-time workers would be eligible for sick leave equal to the number of hours they typically work in a week or twice that amount with a positive test,” the L.A. Times noted. 

The time off would include lost hours due to COVID-19 since January 1st and continue until September 30th. Workers could also put up to three days of sick time towards getting vaccinated, going to a vaccination appointment for a family member, or healing from any effects following vaccination. 

“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,” Newsom, Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (D-Lakewood) and Senate Pro Tem Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) said in a statement. “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.”

On the business side, some lobbied for the positive test element so employees don’t take additional time away from work that they don’t need. The test can either be carried out by the employee or a family member the worker is caring for.

“Businesses have invested hundreds of millions of dollars to keep employees and customers safe through the pandemic,” said Rob Lapsley, president of the California Business Roundtable. “While we still need to see the details for this new sick leave policy, the reality is that this is yet another expense paid for by the business community, which is struggling to recover from the recession. This new and expensive mandate is on top of existing COVID exclusion pay, increased testing and increased masking — all paid for by employers without any existing support from the state.”

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