Coronavirus Support Available for Workers, Employers

Mar 6 2020 - COVID-19 (Coronavirus), Paid Family Leave, Time Off - Mike McCluskey

California makes SDI, PFL and Work Sharing benefits available to those affected by the coronavirus.
California makes SDI, PFL and Work Sharing benefits available to those affected by the coronavirus.

On Thursday, March 5, California’s Employment Development Department (EDD) clarified employer and employee coverage related to the coronavirus disease 2019, also known as COVID-19. The additional support comes one day after Governor Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency as part of California’s response to the coronavirus.

Covered employees who’ve been exposed to the coronavirus are eligible to file a State Disability Insurance (SDI) claim, and employees caring for family members who are ill or quarantined with coronavirus are eligible to file a claim for Paid Family Leave (PFL). In addition, employers experiencing a slowdown due to the coronavirus’ community impact can apply for the Unemployment Insurance (UI) Work Sharing Program.

Here’s what you need to know.

Work Sharing Program Helps Employers, Employees

The UI Work Sharing Program gives employers an alternative to layoffs by retaining their trained employees but reducing their hours and wages, partially offsetting them with UI benefits.

Once employers are approved to participate in the Work Sharing Program, their affected employees will receive a percentage of their weekly UI benefit amount based on the percentage of hours and wages reduced, not to exceed 60 percent. 

Visit the EDD’s Work Sharing Program to learn more.

SDI, PFL Benefits

SDI provides short-term benefit payments to eligible workers who have full or partial loss of wages due to a non-work-related illness, injury or pregnancy. Per the EDD, coronavirus is a covered illness. Benefit amounts are approximately 60 to 70 percent of wages (depending on income) and range from $50 to $1,300 per week. Employers with employees unable to work because they’ve contracted or been exposed to coronavirus (which must be certified by a medical professional) can direct these employees to file an SDI claim online.

Employees taking care of ill or quarantined family members may file a PFL claim on the EDD’s website. PFL provides up to six weeks of benefit payments to eligible workers who have a full or partial loss of wages because they need time off work to care for a seriously ill family member or to bond with a new child. Benefit amounts are approximately 60 to 70 percent of wages (depending on income) and range from $50 to $1,300 a week. 

Prevention Is the Best Medicine

While these measures are helpful, employers should still plan to help slow the coronavirus’ spread, including following the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommendations:

  • Perform routine environmental cleaning of frequently touched areas, such as workstations, countertops and doorknobs;
  • Provide disposable wipes to employees so that commonly-used surfaces, such as keyboards, remote controls and desks, can be wiped down before each use; and
  • Remind employees to wash their hands frequently for at least 20 seconds and avoid touching their eyes, nose and mouth; and
  • Tell employees to stay home if they’re feeling ill.

Additionally, the California Labor Commissioner’s Office has released Frequently Asked Questions for employers on how COVID-19 may impact California labor laws including paid sick leave, requiring workers to disclose high-risk travel and compensation.

Update: Cal/OSHA has now released Interim Guidelines for General Industry on 2019 Novel Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19). These interim guidelines are subject to change as the situation evolves.

Mike McCluskey, Senior Technical Editor, CalChamber

CalChamber members can read more about SDI and PFL in the HR Library as well as read a recent HRCalifornia article on Employers: Plan Now for the Coronavirus. Not a member? See what CalChamber can do for you.

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