Employers

Employers

As the pandemic presents new challenges in health and the workplace, employers must take steps to protect their workers and business from COVID-19. Use the resources available here to learn about COVID-19 workplace requirements such as safety procedures, training for employees on infection prevention, and what to do in case of an infection or outbreak.

I want to have a safer and healthier workplace

A worker may be sick or exposed to COVID-19

COVID-19 Employer Portal

Identify COVID-19 symptoms

Training and resources

COVID-19 testing

Cal/OSHA's emergency temporary standards

Who to contact

COVID-19 Employer Portal

The employer portal is a one-stop hub for California employers to quickly find up-to-date state and local county COVID-19 guidance by business industry. 

Customized guidance

Generate a tailored road map based on answers to a few questions about your business type, county of operation, and compliance practices already in place. Your road map will provide guidance relevant to your business industry as well as online trainings, links to helpful resources, and more.

I want to have a safer and healthier workplace

What new COVID-19 laws should I be aware of?

California has new laws and regulations to protect workers and to prevent the spread of COVID-19 infection at workplaces.

COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standards (ETS)

The COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standards (ETS) became effective and enforceable on November 30, 2020.

  • The ETS applies to all employers, employees, and to all places of employment with three exceptions:
    • Workplaces where there is only one employee who does not have contact with other people.
    • Employees who are working from home.
    • Employees who are covered by the Aerosol Transmissible Diseases regulation.
  • As required by the ETS, an employer must establish an effective written COVID-19 Prevention Program (CPP). The employer must include in their written program and implement the following items:
    • System for communicating with employees about the employer’s COVID-19 prevention procedures.
    • Identification, evaluation, and correction of COVID-19 hazards.
    • Methods of physical distancing of at least six feet.
    • Provide face coverings and ensure employees use them.
    • Engineering controls, administrative controls and personal protective equipment that will be used to reduce transmission risk.
    • Procedures to investigate and respond to COVID-19 cases in the workplace.
    • Provide COVID-19 training and instruction to employees.
    • Provide testing to employees who are exposed to a COVID-19 case, and in the case of multiple infections or a major outbreak, implement regular testing for employees in the exposed work areas and ensure employees incur no cost for the testing. This means you must compensate employees at their regular rate of pay for the time to get tested, as well as travel time and travel costs to and from the testing site.
    • Exclusion of COVID-19 cases and exposed employees from the workplace until they are no longer an infection risk.
    • Maintain records of COVID-19 cases and report serious illnesses and multiple cases to Cal/OSHA and the local health department, as required.

Cal/OSHA has posted a Model COVID-19 Prevention Program (Microsoft Word document) on its website to assist employers with establishing their own COVID-19 Prevention Program for their workplace.

COVID-19 infection prevention requirements from AB 685

In addition to the ETS you should be aware of new COVID-19 infection prevention requirements from AB 685. These requirements became effective on January 1, 2021:

  • Employers must notify all employees at a worksite of potential exposures, COVID-19-related benefits and protections, and disinfection and safety measures that will be taken at the worksite in response to the potential exposure.
  • Employers must notify local public health agencies of all workplace outbreaks, which is defined as three or more laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 cases among employees who live in different households within a two-week period.

Additionally, AB 685 enhanced Cal/OSHA’s ability to conduct enforcement:

  • From January 1, 2021 until January 1, 2023, Cal/OSHA can issue an Order Prohibiting Use (OPU) to shut down an entire worksite or a specific worksite area that exposes employees to an imminent hazard related to COVID-19.
  • From January 1, 2021 until January 1, 2023, Cal/OSHA can issue citations for serious violations related to COVID-19 without giving employers 15-day notice before issuance.

Workers’ Compensation Presumption (SB 1159) 

This new law creates two rebuttable presumptions that COVID-19 illnesses contracted by specific categories of employees are work related and therefore eligible for workers’ compensation, including medical treatment.

  • The first presumption applies to COVID-19 workers’ compensation claims filed by peace officers, firefighters, first responders, and health care workers.
  • The second presumption, for employers with five or more employees, applies to employees who test positive for COVID-19 during an outbreak at the employee’s specific place of employment. An outbreak occurs when a set number of employees – depending on the number of employees at the workplace – test positive for COVID-19 during a continuous 14-day period.
    • Employers are required to report all employee infections at a specific workplace to their workers’ compensation insurer, regardless of whether the infection appears to be work related. 
    • This is a rebuttable presumption meaning that an employer can present evidence regarding measures they have taken to reduce potential transmission of COVID-19 in the workplace.

Supplemental Paid Sick Leave (SPSL)

In response to COVID-19, both the federal government and California authorized emergency supplemental paid sick leave of up to 80 hours for most workers. The California requirement to provide SPSL for COVID-19 related reasons expired on December 31, 2020, but employers should allow workers to finish using their SPSL hours if they were already using them for COVID-19 reasons. Read more on the Labor Commissioner’s website.

What safe and healthful work practices are required?

You must adjust work practices, procedures and/or schedules to help workers maintain at least six feet of physical distance from each other where possible. Some examples include:

  • Staggering break times
  • Adjusting the number of workers on the line or in the shift
  • Limiting the number of customers that can enter the establishment.
  • Installing barriers

You must encourage hand washing and allow more time for frequent, adequate hand washing, which includes:

  • Washing hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
  • Washing commonly missed areas such as palms, back of hand, thumbs, underneath fingernails and between fingers.

To help prevent the spread of COVID-19, provide employees with an effective hand sanitizer by distributing them at various locations throughout the worksite. Hand sanitizer is not as effective as hand washing but it can be used if soap and water are not immediately available. Do not provide or allow the use of hand sanitizers with methyl alcohol.

You must establish procedures to routinely clean and disinfect commonly touched objects and surfaces. You should ensure there is adequate time and supplies to support cleaning and disinfection practices. These cleaning and disinfecting procedures must include:

  • Identifying and regularly cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces and objects, such as doorknobs, elevator buttons, equipment, tools, handrails, handles, controls, bathroom surfaces and steering wheels.
  • Informing employees and authorized employee representatives of cleaning and disinfection protocols, including the planned frequency and scope of regular cleaning and disinfection.
  • Prohibiting the sharing of personal protective equipment and to the extent feasible, items that employees come in regular physical contact with such as phones, headsets, desks, keyboards, writing materials, instruments and tools.
    • When it is not feasible to prevent sharing, sharing should be minimized and shared items and equipment should be disinfected between uses by different people.
    • Sharing of vehicles should be minimized to the extent feasible, and high touch points (steering wheel, door handles, seatbelt buckles, armrests, shifter, etc.) must be disinfected between users.

Cleaning and disinfection of areas, material, and equipment used by a COVID-19 case during the high-risk exposure period.

The commonly touched surfaces in your workplace should be more frequently cleaned with products that are EPA-approved for use against COVID-19. You should ensure correct use of any product and any protective equipment that is required.

California law requires employers to provide face coverings and ensure they are used  by workers properly when indoors and when they are less than six feet from others when outdoors. Employers must provide face coverings for workers or reimburse them for the reasonable costs of obtaining them. Wearing a face covering correctly means it:

  • Is put on with freshly washed hands.
  • Covers your nose and mouth, goes under your chin, and fits snugly against the sides of your face.
  • Is washed between uses (if cloth) or replaced.

Wearing a cloth face covering does not take the place of physical distancing or frequent handwashing. It is effective when combined with maintaining at least six feet of physical distance from others.

California’s COVID-19 webpage has more information on how to best choose and wear a mask.

If a worker is sick or has been exposed to COVID-19 you must provide the worker with certain wages and/or benefits. For more detailed information on the wages or benefits listed below, explore a worker may be sick or exposed to COVID-19 on this site.

Paid Sick Leave

You may be obligated to provide paid sick leave (PSL) or allow a worker to finish using their supplemental paid sick leave (SPSL).

If your workers qualify for PSL, you must permit them to take the leave immediately upon their written or oral request.

Workers’ Compensation

If a test confirms an employee has COVID-19 and was exposed to COVID-19 at work, the employee might be eligible for workers’ compensation, which provides benefits that include:

Remember: Taking an adverse act, including cutting pay or hours, terminating or suspending, in response to workers exercising their rights under the law, including making an oral or written complaint about working conditions or demand for benefits, is unlawful retaliation.

More Resources:

Take an online workplace health and safety training on COVID-19 infection prevention

What supplies do I need to provide to prevent the spread of the virus?

Face Coverings

To prevent the spread of COVID-19, California law requires employers to provide face coverings and ensure they are used by workers properly when indoors and when they are less than six feet from others when outdoors. Employers must provide face coverings for workers or reimburse them for the reasonable costs of obtaining them. Wearing a face covering correctly means it:

  • Is put on with freshly washed hands.
  • Covers your nose and mouth, goes under your chin, and fits snugly against the sides of your face.
  • Is washed between uses (if cloth) or replaced.

Wearing a cloth face covering does not take the place of physical distancing or frequent handwashing. It is effective when combined with maintaining at least six feet of physical distance from others.

California’s COVID-19 webpage has more information on how to best choose and wear a mask.

Employers are required to evaluate the need for personal protective equipment (PPE) to prevent exposure to COVID-19. What PPE you must provide will depend on your employees’ risk of exposure.

Your written plan on preventing workplace safety and health hazards must include training on any personal protective equipment.

Examples of PPE include:

  • Gloves
  • Goggles
  • Face shields

All types of PPE must be:

  • Selected based upon the hazard to the worker.
  • Properly worn when required.
  • Regularly inspected, maintained and replaced, as necessary.
  • Properly removed, cleaned, and stored or disposed of to avoid contamination of self, others, or the environment.

What information must I provide my employees regarding COVID-19?

 
  • The employer’s COVID-19 program requirements to protect employees from COVID-19 hazards.
  • Information on COVID-19 including:
    • COVID-19 is an infectious disease that can be spread through the air when an infectious person talks or vocalizes, sneezes, coughs, or exhales.
    • That COVID19 can also be spread when a person touches a contaminated object and then touches their eyes, nose, or mouth, though that is less common.
    • That an infectious person may have no symptoms.
  • Self-screening at home, including temperature and/or symptom checks using CDC guidelines.
  • The importance of not coming to work:
    • If a worker has symptoms of COVID-19 as described by the CDC, such as a fever or chills, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fatigue, muscle or body aches, headache, new loss of taste or smell, sore throat, congestion or runny nose, nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea, OR
    • If a worker was diagnosed with COVID-19 and has not yet been released from isolation, OR
    • If, within the past 14 days, a worker has had contact with someone who has been diagnosed with COVID-19 and is considered potentially infectious (i.e., still on isolation).
  • To return to work after a worker receives a COVID-19 diagnosis only after meeting CDPH Guidance on Returning to Work or School Following COVID-19 Diagnosis.
  • To seek medical attention if their symptoms become severe, including persistent pain or pressure in the chest, confusion, or bluish lips or face. Updates and further details are available on CDC’s webpage.
  • The importance of frequent handwashing with soap and water, including scrubbing with soap for 20 seconds (or using hand sanitizer with at least 60% ethanol (preferred) or 70% isopropanol (if the product is inaccessible to unsupervised children) when workers cannot get to a sink or handwashing station, per CDC guidelines). Never use hand sanitizers with methanol due to its high toxicity to both children and adults.
  • The importance of physical distancing, both at work and off work time (see Physical Distancing section on the page What are safer work practices?).
  • The importance of combining physical distancing with the wearing of face coverings and using other controls since particles containing the virus can travel more than six feet, especially indoors.
  • Proper use of face coverings, including:
    • Face coverings are not personal protective equipment (PPE).
    • Face coverings do not replace the need for physical distancing and frequent handwashing.
    • Face coverings must cover the nose and mouth.
    • Workers should wash or sanitize hands before and after using or adjusting face coverings.
    • Avoid touching the eyes, nose, and mouth.
    • Face coverings must not be shared and should be washed or discarded after each shift.
  • Information contained in the CDPH Guidance for the Use of Face Coverings, which mandates the circumstances in which face coverings must be worn and the exemptions, as well as any policies, work rules, and practices the employer has adopted to ensure the use of face coverings. Training should also include the employer’s policies on how people who are exempted from wearing a face covering will be handled.
  • Ensure any independent contractors, temporary, or contract workers at the facility are also properly trained in COVID-19 prevention policies and have necessary supplies and PPE. Discuss these responsibilities ahead of time with organizations supplying temporary and/or contract workers.
  • Information on paid leave benefits the worker may be entitled to receive that would make it financially easier to stay at home. See additional information on government programs supporting sick leave and workers’ compensation for COVID-19, including workers’ sick leave rights under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act.

Cal/OSHA FAQs on emergency temporary COVID-19 prevention requirements

What steps do I need to take to reopen safely?

  • Consult the latest information from the Governor’s Office on which businesses and activities can operate.
  • Identify and correct unsafe work practices.
    • Create a site-specific COVID-19 Prevention Plan (Model COVID-19 Prevention Program [Microsoft Word document])
    • Consult industry specific guidance and checklists
    • Conduct a site-specific evaluation of where COVID-19 transmission could occur, including interactions between employees and any other persons, and places employees may congregate or interact with members of the public.
    • Allow workers and worker representatives to be involved in hazard identification and evaluation.
  • Provide effective training to employees based on the requirements of Cal/OSHA’s emergency temporary standards on COVID-19.
  • Modify work practices, employee schedules and the physical workplace to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Cal/OSHA FAQs on emergency temporary COVID-19 prevention requirements

A worker may be sick or exposed to COVID-19

What are COVID-19 symptoms and what do I need to do if an employee is sick or exposed?

Ensure that workers know the symptoms of COVID-19 and encourage them to stay home if they have any of the following:

  • Fever (Temperature greater than 100.4F)
  • Cough
  • Chills
  • Muscle pain
  • Headache
  • Sore throat
  • Recent loss of taste or smell
  • Difficulty breathing

Read more on California’s website for COVID-19 Symptoms and Facts. You should encourage employees to let supervisors know if they think they have been exposed to COVID-19 or if they have symptoms. Workers should stay home unless they need medical care. Paid sick leave may be available to them while they recover at home. Provide workers with information on how they can request and use paid sick leave or supplemental paid sick leave benefits.

You must investigate and respond to a COVID-19 case in the workplace by doing the following:

  • Determine when the COVID-19 case was last in the workplace, and if possible the date of testing and onset of symptoms.
  • Determine which employees may have been exposed to COVID-19 (within six feet for 15 minutes within a 24-hour period).
  • Notify employees of any potential exposures within one business day (and notify any other employer who has potentially exposed employees in the workplace).
  • Offer testing to potentially exposed employees at no cost and during their normal working hours.
  • Investigate the exposure and determine whether workplace conditions could have contributed to the risk of exposure, and what hazard corrections would reduce exposure.
  • Follow all recordkeeping and reporting requirements for employee COVID-19 cases.
  • Exclude from the workplace employees who test positive for COVID-19 and employees with COVID-19 exposure, and follow the requirements for preserving their pay and benefits
  • Follow the return to work criteria for returning excluded employees to work

Employers must record COVID-19 cases in their injury and illnesses logs. You must also notify Cal/OSHA right away when there is a serious illnesses or fatality related to COVID-19. Read Cal/OSHA’s FAQs on recording and reporting COVID-19 cases.

You should temporarily close the general area where the COVID-19 case worked until cleaning is completed. Conduct deep cleaning of the entire general area where the infected employee worked and may have been, including breakrooms, restrooms and travel areas, with a cleaning agent approved for use by the EPA against coronavirus. It should ideally be performed by a professional cleaning service.

  • Any person cleaning the area should be provided and use the proper persona protective equipment (PPE) for COVID-19 disinfection (disposable gown, gloves, eye protection, mask, or respirator if required) in addition to PPE required for cleaning products.

Employers must exclude from work employees who test positive for COVID-19, or have had COVID-19 exposure from the workplace. A COVID-19 case may return to work when any of the following occur:

  • For employees with symptoms all of these conditions must be met:
    1. At least 24 hours have passed since a fever of 100.4 or higher has resolved without the use of fever-reducing medications;
    2. COVID-19 symptoms have improved; and
    3. At least 10 days have passed since COVID-19 symptoms first appeared.
  • For employees without symptoms, at least 10 days have passed since the COVID-19 case’s first positive test.
  • If a licensed health care professional determines the person is not/is no longer a COVID-19 case, in accordance with California Department of Public Health (CDPH) or local health department recommendations.

Employees with COVID-19 exposure may return to the workplace 14 days after the last known COVID-19 exposure. A negative test is not required to return to work.

 

What are paid sick leave options for workers?

The California requirement to provide Supplemental Paid Sick Leave (SPSL) for COVID-19 related reasons expired on December 31, 2020. The federal Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act only extended tax credits for employers with fewer than 500 employees offering paid sick leave for COVID-19 related reasons. Workers taking SPSL as of December 31, 2020, may continue to take the leave they are currently on even if the entitlement extends past December 31, 2020. For example, an employee who exhibited symptoms and was recommended to isolate on December 28, 2020 may continue to utilize the SPSL they would be entitled to even if that isolation is required to extend into 2021, and be paid for the time according to the requirements of the SPSL law. Read more on the Labor Commissioner’s website.

Workers were entitled to SPSL if they left their place of residence to perform work and work for an employer that has more than 500 employees nationwide, as well as for first responders and healthcare employees at employers of any size whose employers excluded them from leave under the federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA).

Workers qualified by meeting any of the following criteria:

  • Subject to a federal, state, or local quarantine or isolation order related to COVID-19
  • Advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine or self-isolate due to concerns related to COVID-19
  • Prohibited from working by the your hiring entity due to health concerns related to the potential transmission of COVID-19

Workers may have been entitled to 80 hours if they work full-time, or for part-time workers, see our FAQs for information on calculating the correct amount of leave.

Under California’s regular paid sick leave law: Employees working for you in California for at least 30 days in a year are probably covered, whether they are a full-time, part-time, or temporary employee.

California’s regular paid sick leave law gives employees sick time that can be used to:

  • Recover from physical/mental illness or injury;
  • To seek medical diagnosis, treatment, or preventative care;
  • To care for a family member who is ill or needs medical diagnosis, treatment, or preventative care.
  • Self-isolate as a result of potential exposure to COVID-19.

Employees can earn one hour of paid leave for every 30 hours worked. An employer must allow an employee to take at least 24 hours or three days of paid sick leave per year, whichever is more.

If employees are denied paid sick leave, they can report the violation to the Labor Commissioner’s Office. Employers may be subject to fines and penalties if employees file a claim or if the Labor Commissioner opens an investigation to look into workers who were denied paid sick leave.

Side by side Comparison of Leave Chart

What cleaning and disinfection procedures are required?

You must implement effective procedures to regularly clean and disinfect commonly touched objects and surfaces. You should ensure there is adequate time and supplies to support cleaning and disinfection practices. These cleaning and disinfecting procedures must include:

  • Identifying and regularly cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces and objects, such as doorknobs, elevator buttons, equipment, tools, handrails, handles, controls, bathroom surfaces and steering wheels.
  • Informing employees and authorized employee representatives of cleaning and disinfection protocols, including the planned frequency and scope of regular cleaning and disinfection.
  • Prohibiting the sharing of personal protective equipment and to the extent feasible, items that employees come in regular physical contact with such as phones, headsets, desks, keyboards, writing materials, instruments and tools.
    • When it is not feasible to prevent sharing, sharing should be minimized and shared items and equipment should be disinfected between uses by different people.
    • Sharing of vehicles should be minimized to the extent feasible, and high touch points (steering wheel, door handles, seatbelt buckles, armrests, shifter, etc.) must be disinfected between users.
  • Cleaning and disinfection of areas, material, and equipment used by a COVID-19 case during the high-risk exposure period.

To protect employees from COVID-19 hazards you must evaluate handwashing facilities, determine the need for additional facilities, encourage and allow time for employee handwashing, and provide employees with an effective hand sanitizer. You should encourage employees to wash their hands for at least 20 seconds each time. Provide or allow the use of hand sanitizers with methyl alcohol.

Take Cal/OSHA’s training course for supervisors on COVID-19 infection prevention

Do I need to offer workers’ compensation benefits?

If a worker believes they contracted COVID-19 at their workplace, they have a right to workers’ compensation benefits. You should encourage workers to notify their employer and file a workers’ compensation claim if they think they contracted COVID-19 at work. When you become aware of the illness, you should provide your employee the workers’ compensation claim form.

On September 17, 2020, the governor signed Senate Bill 1159. This new law creates two rebuttable presumptions that COVID-19 illnesses contracted by specific categories of employees are work related and therefore eligible for workers’ compensation, including medical treatment.

  • The first presumption applies to COVID-19 workers’ compensation claims filed by peace officers, firefighters, first responders, and health care workers.
  • The second presumption, for employers with five or more employees, applies to employees who test positive for COVID-19 during an outbreak at the employee’s specific place of employment. An outbreak occurs when a set number of employees – depending on the number of employees at the workplace – test positive for COVID-19 during a continuous 14-day period.
    • Employers are required to report all employee infections at a specific workplace to their workers’ compensation insurer, regardless of whether the infection appears to be work related. 
    • This is a rebuttable presumption meaning that an employer can present evidence regarding measures they have taken to reduce potential transmission of COVID-19 in the workplace.

This bill limits the risk of employers being liable for claims where the infection did not occur at work by tailoring the presumptions to those first responders and frontline health care workers whose work puts them at the greatest risk of exposure and other employees where there is a demonstrated and verifiable COVID-19 outbreak at their worksite.

You can contact the Information and Assistance Unit if you have questions or call 1‑800‑736‑7401 for recorded information

What is an outbreak and what do I need to report?

Cal/OSHA’s emergency temporary standards on COVID-19 prevention define outbreaks and major outbreaks:

  • Outbreak – three or more COVID-19 cases in an “exposed workplace” within a 14-day period or identified as an outbreak by a local health department.
  • Major outbreak – 20 or more COVID-19 cases in an “exposed workplace” within a 30-day period.

An exposed workplace is a work location, working area, or common area used or accessed by a COVID-19 case during the high-risk period. If, within 14 days, three COVID-19 cases share the same exposed workplace, then the Multiple COVID-19 Infections and COVID-19 Outbreaks standard (section 3205.1) applies and additional testing will be required.

  • When determining which areas constitute a single exposed workplace for purposes of enforcing testing requirements, Cal/OSHA does not expect employers to treat areas where masked workers momentarily pass through the same space without interacting or congregating as an “exposed workplace,” so they may focus on locations where transmission is more likely.

You must contact the local health department immediately but no longer than 48 hours after you become aware of three or more COVID-19 cases for guidance on preventing the further spread of COVID-19 within the workplace.

You must provide to the local health department the total number of COVID-19 cases and for each COVID-19 case, the name, contact information, occupation, workplace location, business address, the hospitalization and/or fatality status, and North American Industry Classification System code of the workplace of the COVID-19 case, and any other information requested by the local health department. You should continue to give notice to the local health department of any subsequent COVID-19 cases at the workplace.

Training and resources

COVID-19 training for California workers

Online courses are available for workers and employers to take on-demand. Take a course to learn more about COVID-19 and preventing the spread in the workplace.

Learn from our partners

A variety of free trainings for employers, workers, and unions are being offered by the Labor Occupational Health Program at UC Berkeley. 

A list of resources for workers and communities impacted by COVID-19 is provided by the UCLA Labor Occupational Safety and Health Program.

COIVD-19 resources specific to helping agricultural employers and farmworkers are available from the Western Center for Agricultural Health and Safety at UC Davis. 

Who to contact

 

 

 

Labor Commissioner's Office

For questions on paid sick leave, retaliation protections, filing a wage claim, or retaliation complaint:

(833) LCO-INFO (833-526-4636)

 

To leave a tip about an employer that is not paying workers that take sick leave:

(855) LCO-SPSL (855-526-7775)

 

 

Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA)

You can file a workplace safety and health complaint with Cal/OSHA online, or by telephone at the district office closest to you.

 

Workers' Compensation

For questions on workers' compensation, call 1-800-736-7401 for recorded information on workers' compensation benefits from Information and Assistance staff 24 hours a day, or contact a local Division of Workers' Compensation office during business hours to reach a live person