Gov. Gavin Newsom and state legislative leaders announced an agreement Tuesday on a framework to extend pandemic-related sick leave through the end of September.
Newsom, Senate President pro Tempore Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, D-Los Angeles, jointly announced the deal that would require businesses with more than 25 employees to provide at least 40 hours of COVID-specific paid sick leave to full-time workers that are sick or caring for another person who is sick.
Workers who present a positive COVID-19 test result would be eligible for an additional 40 hours of paid leave. The leave would also be retroactive to start of 2022.
“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,” the three officials said in a statement. “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.”
While California employers are required to provide general paid sick leave to their workers, the state’s paid sick leave policy specifically for workers exposed to COVID-19 or those exhibiting symptoms expired Sept. 30 last year.
That paid leave policy, which Newsom signed into law in March 2021, required employers with more than 25 employees to provide an additional 80 hours of paid leave, ensuring workers could avoid working when sick.
Labor officials, who had pushed for the reinstatement of COVID-specific paid sick leave in recent weeks, lauded the deal as a necessity to protect workers like those in the service industry who are exposed to large numbers of potentially infectious people each day.
“We spoke up about the impossible choices we faced without enough sick time to recover from COVID-19 without our kids going hungry,” Service Employees International Union California President Bob Schoonover said in a statement. “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 state’s teachers’ union also celebrated the agreement, noting that the recent surge of cases tied to the highly transmissible omicron variant led to thousands of educators and students across the state testing positive.
“This has put undue pressure on teachers and school employees faced with having to choose between going without pay or spreading the virus to their school communities,” California Teachers Association E. Toby Boyd said in a statement. “This leave will allow school employees to quarantine, recover, and return to their students and classrooms.”
State legislators are expected to fast-track the paid leave policy to Newsom’s desk in the coming weeks, well before they approve the overall state budget in June.