Workers in the food sector will be eligible for two weeks paid sick leave if they fall ill or have to isolate as a result of coronavirus, Gov. Gavin Newsom has announced. This news comes after fast-food chain workers protested on April 9th about the lack of safety measures in place for them. But will it be enough to protect some of the state’s most crucial workers?
Extended sick leave
In 2015, California’s Paid Sick Leave Law was introduced, entitling all workers to 24 hours or three days of paid sick leave every year. But Newsom’s new order will give full-time workers who work in the food sector chain, including grocery store employees, farmworkers, and delivery drivers, an extra two weeks paid leave, providing they work for a business with at least 500 members of staff. Part-time workers in this industry won’t miss out either, with their sick time being calculated based on the number of hours they usually work over a two-week period.
Better protection for all
Newsom’s supplementary sick pay order will stay in place until California officially lifts its ‘Stay at Home’ mandate. This could potentially be anytime in May, although end dates are constantly changing in various Californian cities and counties. However, even when the mandate is lifted it doesn’t mean these essential food sector workers won’t fall ill on the job, which is why California businesses should consider offering extra protection to these individuals in the form of workers’ comp insurance. Other sectors should review their workers’ safeguarding options too. Affordable solutions are easy to come by and can help businesses grow, which is what many will urgently require once isolation restrictions are lifted. For this reason, you should offer your payroll customers affordable workers’ comp insurance if you’re an accounting or payroll professional to help your clients thrive post-lockdown. In general, any small business that’s at risk of financial harm should consider workers’ comp insurance since it provides adequate medical and legal coverage.
A move in the right direction
Upon announcing the new order, Gov. Gavin Newsom made it clear that food industry workers are “essential” and “valued.” The United Farm Workers union also praised California for being the first state to provide extended sick leave to farmworkers during this critical time. But it was likely that criticism of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) as well as pressure from fast-food workers that led to this move. On March 14th, 2020, the FFCRA was introduced to give employees working for employers with fewer than 500 staff up to 80 hours of paid sick leave. Meanwhile, fast-food workers at some of the state’s biggest chains have been campaigning for weeks for masks, gloves, soap, and paid sick days.
California’s food industry workers are working tirelessly to provide for the state. However, this isn’t without risk, which is why it’s great to hear that their rights are being protected more than ever right now with the introduction of enhanced sick pay.
Cassandra Winter is a professional writer and editor. After a career in PR for an arts charity, she now focuses on writing about her favourite topics from public art to restoration and events. When not working she loves swimming, hiking and quiet nights in with her family.