Paid leave is the most prevalent employee benefit in private industry, according to U.S. Department of Labor data from 2012. However, almost 40 percent of workers nationally are not paid when they stay home sick. As a result, many workers cannot afford to stay home if they are ill, which can be a health issue for others. California is one state doing something about that by mandating that employees in the state, including part-timers get paid sick leave.
California Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation Wednesday that will entitle nearly all workers who regularly work at least 30 hours a week to at least three paid sick days a year, starting next July. Employees become eligible after 90 days of employment (unless the employer chooses to grant the benefit sooner). They then will earn one sick leave hour for every 30 hours worked, according to the measure, up to a total of 24 hours. (Again, employers can choose to grant more sick time; 24 hours per year is the required minimum.)
Noting that the measure will really help people, the governor said, “whether it’s a person working at a car wash or McDonald’s or 7-Eleven” who did not have paid sick time before. According to Labor Department statistics, 61 percent of companies provide sick pay, which is actually a noticeable increase from the 50 percent that did 10 years before. In California, an estimated 40 percent of the workforce did not receive sick pay.
Sick leave in California can also be used to care for a sick family member. So the legislation will have a significant impact on single parents who did not have sick pay before.
Brown did acknowledge that three days a year is modest, but they will help millions. In fact, the new legislation will extend sick pay to approximately 6.5 million in the state. Connecticut is the only other state that has enacted similar legislation for workers there. But, several large cities have passed paid sick-leave requirements. On the flip side, more conservative governments in the country, such as in Wisconsin, have enacted legislation prohibiting required paid sick leave on a local level.
Lawmakers in California had batted around various paid sick leave bills for approximately 10 years. However, with the state mired in the recession, the timing was not right. Now, California’s economy has been improving so the legislature has been dealing with several labor-related issues. For example, the state raised its minimum wage to $9 now and $10 in 2016.
So, what workers will not be covered by the paid sick leave California is mandating? Home health care workers are exempt. Experts estimated that providing sick pay for the estimated 365,000 in-home care providers could cost more than $80 million a year. Hence, a change that was made to the legislation just before it passed. However, it has been controversial.
The United Domestic Workers of America, which represents many in-home care givers in the state, issued a statement. Doug Moore, their executive director, expressed the belief that caregivers are being treated like second-class workers by not being given the paid sick leave California is mandating.
By Dyanne Weiss