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COVID in California – Paid Leave Redux

With lawmakers and pundits across the nation struggling with vaccine and mask mandates, California renewed its position on paid leave for pandemic-related reasons. State Bill 114, signed by Governor Gavin Newsom on February 9, 2022, reinstated and revised the supplemental paid sick leave requirement that California employers may remember from 2021.

What’s Staying the Same

Like its predecessor S.B. 95, which expired on September 30, 2021, the new law requires all California employers with more than 25 employees to provide up to 80 hours of paid time off for a variety of COVID-19-related reasons. The law is effective immediately, retroactive to January 1, and expires on September 30, 2022. “Retroactive” means that if employees took unpaid leave for qualifying reasons anytime after January 1, 2022, but prior to the law’s enactment, they can now request retro pay for that leave as California COVID paid sick leave. Similarly, if they used other paid time off for qualifying reasons between January 1 and the law’s enactment, they can request a transfer of that PTO into California COVID leave and a reinstatement of that other PTO. A bit confusing? Let’s try an example:

On February 1, Cally Fornia had accrued 20 hours of paid time off under her employer’s benefit plan. She took off 16 hours to get a vaccine booster and rest up after some side effects, leaving 4 hours available under the plan. Now, Cally can reach out to her employer and request that her “available” balance of PTO be upped back to 20 hours, and that her 16-hour leave be applied against her new 80 hours of California COVID leave.

“Retroactive,” by the way, also accrues in favor of the employer. If a company paid leave between January 1 and the law’s enactment date for qualifying reasons, even though the law didn’t exist yet, those hours paid can be counted toward the new 80-hour requirement.

Oh, yes. . . and of course, posting requirements apply to ensure that employees are aware of their rights.

What’s Changing?

Unlike the 2021 law, S.B. 114 creates two “banks” of leave for differing reasons. Employers must provide 40 hours for bank 1 reasons and 40 hours for bank 2 reasons. Employees don’t have to use up bank 1 before claiming bank 2 leave.

Also, under the old law, employers had to display the available leave balance on the employee’s paystub. The current law requires employers to display the “taken” amount on each paystub – even if the “taken” amount is 0.

What Are Those Qualifying Reasons?

To qualify for bank 1 leave, the employee must be taking off due to one of the following reasons:

    • Employee is subject to quarantine​ mandated by Federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), CA Department of Public Health, or a local health official with jurisdiction over the workplace
    • Employee is subject to health care provider advised quarantine​
    • Employee/family member is getting or recuperating from a vaccine​
    • Employee has COVID symptoms and is awaiting a diagnosis​
    • Employee is caring for a family member in quarantine​
    • Employee is caring for a child whose place of care/schooling is closed due to COVID​

In contrast, there’s only one way to qualify for bank 2 leave: the employee or a family member tested positive for COVID.

For more information about the new California COVID paid leave requirements, check out the Department of Industrial Relations FAQ. To learn about Viventium’s solutions for California employers, be sure to watch our webinar COVID in California – Paid Leave Redux.

 Disclaimer: It is always your responsibility as the employer to review/audit your pay practices for compliance with all relevant federal, state, and local laws and regulations. Viventium does not provide tax or legal advice and does not take responsibility for the compliance or consequences of your pay practices.

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