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California to mandate 2 more weeks of paid leave

The requirement, applicable to any restaurant or other company employing at least 26 people, would be retroactive to Jan. 1 and be in effect until at least Sept. 30.
Photograph: Shutterstock

Restaurants in California with a payroll of at least 26 people would be required to provide employees contending with a case of COVID-19 with up to two weeks of additional paid leave under a deal reached this week between Gov. Gavin Newsom and state legislative leaders.

If approved by the legislature, as is a near certainty, the requirement would be retroactive to Jan. 1 and extend through Sept. 30, 2022.  It would revive the emergency leave provisions that California adopted earlier in the pandemic. Those measures expired on Sept. 30, 2021.

The measure would require up to 40 hours of paid time for a full-time worker who misses shifts because they or someone in their household has contracted COVID. The time is intended to be spent recovering from the illness, self-quarantining or dealing with a family member who’s been stricken.

An additional 40 hours of paid time is available to a worker who provides proof of a positive COVID test.

Employees who work less than 40 hours a week would have their paid time reduced to however many hours they usually work over a seven-day period.

The measure is part of a budget bill that the governor and legislature are attempting to push into law ahead of the usual schedule because of the relief measures it contains. Those breaks include exempting federal aid received specifically by restaurants from the state’s income tax and providing additional funds for a grant program aimed at all small businesses in the state.

“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 strive,” Newsom said in a statement.

Many in the business community opposed the re-up of paid leave, arguing that they’re already struggling to have a full staff on board for every shift. Many also asserted that the reinstatement of paid sick leave might discourage some workers from getting vaccinated.

The deal between Newsom and leaders of both the state senate and assembly comes as the wave of COVID infections from the omicron variant appears to have crested. The average daily number of new cases slipped by 2% yesterday to 104,436.

However, that figure is still several times higher than the daily rate of infections of early summer, and hospitalization rates are still soaring at the rate of nearly 16,000 admissions per day.

California hosts more restaurants by far than any other state in the nation does.

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