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California’s new COVID-19 paid sick leave law expands eligibility for covered employers, employees

Federal paid sick leave remains voluntary, offers extended tax credits to employers

April 01, 2021 17108

New federal and state paid sick leave laws related to COVID-19 were recently passed to affect small businesses, including some dental practices. The new provisions provide significant changes and overlapping leave considerations that expand eligibility for covered employers and add additional qualifying reasons for taking leave, among other changes.

Here’s what practice owners need to know about national and statewide paid sick leave laws and how they apply to their dental office.

American Rescue Plan extends voluntary FFCRA tax credits

The American Rescue Plan Act, signed into law on March 11, does not require employers to provide paid and emergency family leave under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act; however, it does extend tax credits for employers who continue to voluntarily offer FFCRA leave.

The FFCRA tax credits were previously extended through March 31 under the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2020, but the ARPA further extends these tax credits through Sept. 30.

The ARPA resets the allotted amount of emergency paid sick leave per employee, which means employees who previously exhausted their leave prior to April 1 are now entitled to an additional 80 hours of emergency paid sick leave and 12 weeks of emergency expansion family medical leave covered by the FFCRA. Employers can voluntarily provide the additional time for leave taken between April 1 and Sept. 30 to which the tax credit will apply.

Under the ARPA, tax credits continue to be available for paid sick leave and paid family leave in addition to the following new qualifying reasons, which took effect March 29:

  • The employee is getting a COVID-19 vaccine.
  • The employee is recovering from complications of the vaccine.
  • The employee is awaiting the results of a COVID-19 test or diagnosis.

If an employer chooses to voluntarily offer leave, it must be used for the same purposes and subject to the same conditions as originally outlined in the FFCRA and must be provided fairly to all employees.

California modifies and enacts statewide COVID-19 supplemental paid sick leave law

While federal paid sick leave laws are on a voluntary basis, several states, including California, have adopted their own paid sick leave and paid family leave mandates.

Update Feb. 18, 2022: New supplemental leave effective February 2022

California's previous COVID-19 supplemental paid sick leave under SB 95 expired, but the state implemented new supplemental leave effective Feb. 19 for employers with 25 or more employees. Read more in the CDA article.

April 1, 2021: Gov. Gavin Newsom on March 19 signed Senate Bill 95, which modifies the state’s COVID-19 supplemental paid sick leave by expanding the number of covered employers, providing an additional 80 hours of leave, and adding several new qualifying reasons for which leave can be taken.

Under SB 95’s new provisions, California employers of 26 or more employees are required to provide COVID-19 supplemental paid sick leave.

All employees working for covered employers are eligible to take paid sick leave if they are unable to work or telework because they are:

  • Subject to a quarantine or isolation period related to COVID-19 as defined by federal, state, or local orders or CDC guidelines.
  • Advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine.
  • Attending an appointment to receive a COVID-19 vaccine.
  • Experiencing symptoms related to a COVID-19 vaccine that prevents the employee from being able to work or telework.
  • Experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 and seeking a medical diagnosis.
  • Caring for a family member who is subject to an order or guidelines or who has been advised to self-quarantine.
  • Caring for a child whose school or place of care is closed for COVID-19 reasons.

Employers cannot require an employee to use other paid or unpaid leaves before using COVID-19 supplemental paid sick leave.

SB 95 took effect March 29 but applies retroactively to Jan. 1, 2021. This means employers are required to make retroactive payments for leave taken for any of the qualifying reasons between Jan. 1 and March 28 upon oral or written request of the employee.

If an employer has already provided supplemental paid leave after Jan. 1 to an employee for any of the qualifying reasons and if the amount of leave is equal to or greater than the required amount, the employer is allowed to count those hours toward the new leave requirements.

Additionally, if an employee has exhausted their SPSL under SB 95 and requires additional covered leave for a qualifying reason after April 1, covered employers may choose to voluntarily provide leave under the new ARPA revisions as noted above and receive payroll tax credits.

California’s COVID-19 supplemental paid sick leave under SB 95 expires Sept. 30.

Effective March 29, employers are required to post and distribute a required notice of the COVID-19 supplemental paid sick leave mandate. This notice must be displayed where employees can easily read it. If employees do not frequent a physical workplace, employers may send the notice electronically to employees.

Employers are required to note on the employee’s itemized wage statement the employee’s remaining number of COVID-19 supplemental paid sick leave hours. The employee’s wage statement must differentiate between COVID-19 supplemental paid sick leave and other paid sick leave.

Practice owners can find additional guidance in the CDA Practice Support library and should review and monitor the Labor Commissioner’s 2021 COVID-19 Supplemental Paid Sick Leave FAQs for updated guidance on the new mandate.

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