California Governor Gavin Newsom signed into law on Wednesday, Feb. 9, legislation to restore supplemental paid sick leave benefits for many state workers. In addition, the legislation will provide up to two weeks of leave for COVID-19 related absences.

The new legislation signed by the Democratic governor requires employers with 26 or more employees to provide up to 80 hours of paid leave, divided into two tranches of 40 hours each. In addition, the law will provide financial assistance to businesses that are forced to absorb the extra costs.

During a press conference held on the patio of Oakland’s NIDO restaurant, Newsom said that “businesses cannot thrive in a world that is failing,” stressing that is why “sick leave is foundational, and keeping people healthy, keeping patrons safe is so important.”

“I’m proud of their hard work,” Newsom said, as noted by LA Times. “We wouldn’t be here without them, and I’m honored to be able to sign these pieces of legislation today.”

The new law, which will be retroactive to Jan. 1 and expire on Sept. 30 of this year, is expected to benefit workers affected by any situation involving the virus. 

Employers must therefore provide up to 40 hours of paid leave to their full-time workers who have symptoms of COVID-19, who must care for a sick family member, or who have school-age children unable to attend school due to pandemic closures.

Many of the new legislative provisions were contained in the bill that expired in September 2021, but some new rules negotiated by the business community were added. One of these is the requirement for a positive COVID-19 test result before passing the second week of paid leave.  

If the employee qualifies for a second 40-hour leave package because they test positive for COVID-19 or is caring for a family member who tested positive. In that case, employers may require the employee to provide documentation of either their own or their family member’s positive test result. 

An employer may also provide the employee up to 24 hours (3 working days) to attend vaccination appointments and to recover or care for someone with vaccine-related symptoms unless the employee provides a physician’s certification that more time is needed.

The California legislature passed several other bills along with the new law that provided tax relief and restored tax credits suspended at the pandemic’s beginning. In addition, the new bill allows businesses in the state to offset the costs of additional employee leave. 

According to lawmakers, the bill will provide $6 billion in economic relief for businesses and an estimated $5.5 billion in tax breaks. It also provides an additional $150 million in grants for small businesses put on waiting lists during previous rounds of relief funding.

“This business relief package of more than $6 billion will help to offset losses employers have incurred, help create good paying jobs, and will speed up our economic recovery from the pandemic,” said Jennifer Barrera, executive director of the California Chamber of Commerce, according to Governor Newsom’s official website. 

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