As the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, continues to spread throughout communities, state and local governments are providing wage replacement options to affected workers. There is a lot of information out there, so on today’s episode of The Workplace podcast, CalChamber Executive Vice President and General Counsel Erika Frank breaks down exactly what employers need to know: what wage replacement resources are available for workers, what employers can do to minimize the spread of the virus at the office, and a comprehensive source for all relevant workplace-related coronavirus news.
A resource page with a list of relevant articles and links to government resources is now available on the CalChamber website, www.calchamber.com/coronavirus. The page will be regularly updated to ensure readers are accessing the most current information available.
Wage Replacement Options
Two state agencies employers should be paying attention to right now are the Labor Commissioner’s Office in the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE), which handles how employees are paid; and the Employment Development Department (EDD), which handles wage replacement, such as state disability insurance and paid family leave.
The DLSE has created a Frequently Asked Questions page employers can turn to, Frank says. It features answers to questions such as, “Can an employee use California Paid Sick Leave due to COVID-19 Illness?” and “Can an employer require a worker who is quarantined to exhaust paid sick leave?”
The answers: Yes, an employee can use California Paid Sick Leave if he/she has the time; and no, an employer cannot require a worker to use her/his sick time—it’s the worker’s choice. If sick time is used, Frank explains, the employer can require a worker takes a minimum of 2 hours of paid sick leave per work day, but the worker determines how much time will be used.
The FAQ page is available at: https://www.dir.ca.gov/dlse/2019-Novel-Coronavirus.htm.
California has expanded its paid family leave and disability benefits to workers affected by the COVID-19 virus.
Paid family leave is available to those who are certified by a medical professional to be sick with COVID-19, or are caring for a family member who is certified by a medical professional to be sick with COVID-19, Frank says.
Workers who have had their work hours reduced or who are affected by COVID-19-related office closures can file a claim for state disability insurance (SDI).
More information is available at: https://www.edd.ca.gov/about_edd/coronavirus-2019.htm.
Frank reminds employers to put together a plan in case their office building closes due to an outbreak or if a worker becomes ill with the COVID-19 virus. For some businesses, this may mean allowing employees to work remotely or closing down the office to wait it out.
Another state agency providing resources to employers is the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA), Frank says. The agency has published guidance and fact sheets on the requirements employers from varying industries have to protect workers from the Coronavirus.
More information is available at: https://www.dir.ca.gov/dosh/coronavirus/Health-Care-General-Industry.html.
San Francisco Local Ordinance
New guidance was issued this week by the San Francisco Office of Labor Standards Enforcement, stating that employees who fall within the definition of a “vulnerable population” may take time off under the city’s Paid Sick Leave Ordinance, Frank explains. A member of the “vulnerable population” is a person who is 60 years old or older, or a person with a health condition such as heart disease, lung disease, diabetes, kidney disease or weakened immune system.
To view the local ordinance guidance, visit: https://sfgov.org/olse/san-francisco-paid-sick-leave-coronavirus.
List of Resources
A resource page with a list of relevant articles and links to government resources is now available on the CalChamber website, www.calchamber.com/coronavirus. The page will be updated regularly to ensure readers have access to the most current information available.
The California Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development (GO-Biz) has compiled helpful information for employers and employees. For more information, visit: https://business.ca.gov/coronavirus-2019/.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also provides extensive and current information. Visit: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-nCoV/index.html.