This is the second half of a two-part article on the new laws and regulations affecting businesses in California.

 

6) Contractor workers’ comp

A new law will require almost all contractors in California to carry workers’ compensation coverage, regardless of if they have employees or not.

Currently, only roofers are required to carry workers’ comp insurance even if they claim to have no employees.

SB 216 will take effect in two phases:

  1. Starting July 1, 2023, the following contractors will be required to carry workers’ compensation coverage regardless of whether they have staff or not:
  • Concrete (C-8 license),
  • Heating and air conditioning (C-20),
  • Asbestos abatement contractors (C-22), and
  • Tree service contractors (D-49).
  1. Starting Jan. 1, 2026, it applies to all licensed contractors or applicants for licensure, regardless of classification, unless they are organized as a joint venture and file a certificate of exemption from workers’ compensation.

7) Permanent COVID standard

As the year was drawing to a close, Cal/OSHA was working on a COVID-19 standard to replace the emergency standard that has been in place since 2020.

One of the biggest changes is that it will remove the requirement that employers pay workers who have been excluded from working due to them either catching COVID-19 or coming into contact with others in the workplace who have it.

This blanket requirement has essentially resulted in employers being on the hook for unlimited paid sick leave related to the coronavirus throughout the pandemic for both positive cases and those excluded due to an exposure.

Other changes in the proposed standard include:

  • The definition of “close contact” would be the same as that of the California Department of Public Health, but would add that such close contact applies whether or not face coverings are used.
  • Employers would no longer be required to evaluate whether their method of ventilation is adequate to reduce risk. The proposed language would require the methods of ventilation to be “effective.”
  • Employers would no longer be required to report to the local health department, but would still be required to track all COVID-19 cases with name, contact information, occupation, location of work and last day at the workplace, as well as the date of the positive test or diagnosis.

8) CalSavers expanded

SB 1126 will require any person or entity with at least one employee to either provide them with access to a retirement program like a 401(k) plan or enroll them in the state-run CalSavers program.

Currently only companies with five or more employees who do not offer a retirement plan are required to enroll their workers in CalSavers. Also, since July 2022, the CalSaver’s law has applied to employers with five or more workers.

Employers that don’t provide a retirement plan for their workers, and who fail to register, can face a penalty of $250 per employee, as well as additional penalties for sustained noncompliance.

If you already have a qualified retirement plan (such as a 401(k) or a payroll-deduction IRA) for your employees, you do not have to participate.

Participating employers will deduct a default rate of 5% of pay from the paycheck of each employee at least 18 years old and deposit it into the individual’s CalSavers account. Employees can choose other deduction rates as well.

Employee participation is voluntary, and they can opt out at any time.

9) Bereavement leave

Employers with five or more workers will be required to provide up to five days of bereavement leave upon the death of a family member, under a new law starting in 2023.

This leave may be unpaid, but the law allows workers to use existing paid leave available to them, such as accrued vacation days, paid time off or sick leave. Employers are authorized to require documentation to support the request for leave, with any of the following being acceptable:

  • Death certificate,
  • Published obituary, or
  • Verification of death, burial or memorial services.

10) PFL wage replacement

Existing California law allows employees to apply for Paid Family Leave and State Disability Insurance, both of which provide partial wage replacement benefits when employees take time off work for various reasons under the California Family Rights Act.

Starting in 2025, low-wage earners (those who earn up to 70% of the state average quarterly wage) will be eligible for a higher percentage of their regular wages under the state’s PFL and SDI benefit programs.