COVID-19 Supplemental Leave Likely To Be Extended In California

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In just a few days, California Assembly Bill 152, authored by the Assembly Committee on Budget, will face its final hurdle when it hits the Governor’s desk for signature. The California legislature passed the COVID-19-related bill on August 31. The bill extends California COVID Supplemental sick pay to the end of the year.  

Below is a summary of the key provisions that California employers should be aware of in the event Governor Newsom signs AB 152 into law:

Extension of Leave and Sick Pay Through December 31, 2022

Currently, employers are required to provide up to 40 hours of COVID-19 supplemental paid sick leave for covered employees who are unable to work or telework due to certain reasons related to COVID-19 until September 30, 2022, when the law is set to expire.  

Additionally, the current law provides that a covered employee may take up to 40 more hours of COVID-19 supplemental paid sick leave if the covered employee, or a family member for whom the covered employee is providing care, tests positive for COVID-19 at any time until September 30, 2022.  

This leave is in addition to any paid sick leave available under the Healthy Workplaces, Healthy Families Act of 2014, and in addition to prior COVID-19 supplemental paid sick leave the employee was entitled to, as specified. For more information about the original COVID supplemental leave legislation click here

AB 152, if signed, will extend these leave and pay rights until December 31, 2022.  Although the time in which workers may use COVID-19 supplemental leave will be extended by three months, AB 152 does not provide additional leave time for those employees who previously exhausted their COVID-19-related leave time.  

Creation of Relief Grants

California secured, at minimum, $250 million for COVID-19 Supplemental Paid Sick Leave Relief in a grant program to help small employers recoup the costs associated with providing mandatory paid leave under the COVID-19 Supplemental Paid Sick Leave (SPSL) program.  

An additional $70 million may be added to the grant program if federal relief funds are secured by the state.  Qualifying employers will be eligible to be reimbursed up to $50,000 for costs incurred to provide COVID-19 SPSL, pursuant to Sections 248.6 and 248.7 of the California Labor Code, which will not be subject to state tax. The bill would repeal these provisions on January 1, 2024.

The caveat to this apparent win for employers is that it only applies to California employers with between 26 and 49 employees, therefore limiting the relief only to a subset of smaller California employers.

Hours of Supplemental Paid Leave and Testing

Currently, employers do not have any obligation to provide additional COVID-19 supplemental paid sick leave if the employee refuses to provide documentation of a test result, and employers are authorized to require the covered employee, if that employee tests positive, to submit to another test on or after the fifth day after the first positive test and provide documentation of those results. Existing law requires the employer to provide that test at no cost to the employee.

This bill would allow employers to require the employee to submit to a second diagnostic test within no less than 24 hours. If the test results are negative, the employee would no longer be eligible for leave.  

Extension of Benefits for Personal Care Providers

AB 152 will also extend COVID-19 supplemental paid sick leave for specified in-home supportive service providers and personal care service providers to December 31, 2022.

Conclusion

Governor Newsom is expected to sign this bill. Notwithstanding the reduction in COVID-19 cases in California, supplemental COVID leave rights for California employees and home care providers will likely continue until the year's end. Stay tuned to this blog for additional updates. 

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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