The government in California has been taking a lot of steps in response to the coronavirus outbreak, including the Governor declaring a State of Emergency. In some excellent news, the government is providing guidance to employers on what resources will be made available if employees are unable to work due to the coronavirus, and other related concerns.
The California Employment Development Department (EDD) has announced the resources and benefits it is making available for employees and employers impacted by the coronavirus, COVID-19. We are detailing each of those here for you.
SDI benefits for employees who are sick from or quarantined due to the coronavirus
California’s State Disability Insurance program provides up to 52 weeks of partial wage replacement benefits for employees who are unable to work due to certain non-work-related medical conditions. The Employment Development Department (EDD) has announced that coronavirus will be considered a covered medical condition, qualifying individuals for benefits. Therefore, if you have an employee who is unable to work due to the coronavirus, you should encourage them to apply for SDI benefits so that they do not go entirely without pay.
PFL benefits for employees who are caring for a sick or quarantined family member
California’s Paid Family Leave (PFL) program provides up to 6 weeks of partial wage replacement for employees who need time off from work to care for a family member with a serious medical condition. Being a caretaker for an individual who is impacted by the coronavirus can qualify an employee for PFL benefits. Employees can apply for those benefits here.
Related Reading: Practical Guidance for Employers Handling the Coronavirus Outbreak
Employers can apply to the Work Sharing Program to make partial unemployment benefits available to employees who have reduced hours
Anytime an employee has a reduction in hours or is temporarily released from work, they can apply for full or partial unemployment benefits. However, to continue being eligible for UI benefits, the employee has to show that they are actively trying to seek out full-time work. If you are only temporarily reducing employee hours due to the coronavirus, this unemployment benefit system isn’t ideal because it adds to the risk of the employee leaving their job to look for other work. That action could result in you being short-staffed when you want to come back at full capacity.
Fortunately, EDD has a remedy for this situation. Employers can apply to the Work Sharing Program, which allows employees to collect unemployment benefits without having to look for other work. It’s meant to allow employees to receive income relief while still allowing the employer to retain these employees to return back to work full-time when conditions change.
If you know that you need to reduce some or all of your employees’ hours but intend to restore everyone back to their regular hours in the future, we highly recommend you take advantage of this program. There are detailed eligibility criteria outlined on the program’s web page. There are also several detailed FAQs and resources for more information on the bottom of that page.
Support for employers considering closure or major layoffs
California has a Rapid Response Program to support employers who are considering drastic measures like closures and layoffs. The Rapid Response teams can provide onsite services to assist you and your employees as you review their options.
Employer tax assistance
The EDD is accepting requests for extensions to file state payroll reports and to deposit state payroll taxes. Employers can contact the EDD Taxpayer Assistance Center for information.
Additional information for employers
- The California Labor Commissioner has published FAQs on topics such as how CA paid sick leave benefits can be used in relation to the coronavirus, and pay obligations if an employee is on leave.
- The California Department of Public Health has a page dedicated to news updates.
- The California Department of Public Health has been issuing Guidance for Healthcare Facilities.
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