How your business can start operating as normal (almost).
As COVID rules and guidelines loosen, California employers are experiencing significant changes in how they can manage their workplace. On June 17th, revised regulations to California’s COVID-19 Prevention Emergency Temporary Standards (“ETS”) were adopted by the Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board (Cal/OSHA) and then signed by Governor Newsom to go into effect immediately.
The Big Takeaways
Physical distancing is no longer necessary, and masks are not required for fully-vaccinated people in the workplace, based on the new guidance from the California Department of Public Health (CDPH). However, if your business is experiencing an “outbreak,” as defined by three or more COVID cases in your workplace within a 14-day period, then everyone must wear a mask inside, as well as outside, if physical distancing is not an option. Additionally, a fully-vaccinated employee is not required to take time off work or get tested if they come in close contact with someone with COVID.
Managing Vaccination Status
With the new regulations, employers must maintain new documentation requirements. If your business chooses to allow vaccinated employees to be mask-free, you have the following options for how to manage the vaccination verifications:
- Your employee shows proof of vaccination (vax card, copy of card, or other healthcare document) and provides you a copy.
- Your employee shows proof of vaccination, but does not provide you a copy.
- Your employee self-attests their vaccination status.
In all cases, the employer must keep a record of the status of vaccinated employees. Here’s a form from Cal/OSHA you can use to help manage your records. It’s important to note these documents are medical records and must be kept confidential.
Employer Provided Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
Keep in mind, over 50% of Californians are not fully vaccinated. That means you likely have employees who are still required to wear masks in the workplace. As an employer, you are obligated to provide free PPE (i.e., N-95 masks) to all employees who work with others indoors or in a vehicle, who are not fully vaccinated. You must also have masks available for employees who request one.
Additional Employer Responsibilities
Employers are still required to inform employees of exposure at work through a written notice. The new regulations state that you must also give verbal notice in a “language understandable by the employee.” An employer is also responsible to provide free testing for individuals who show COVID symptoms, but are not fully vaccinated.
Although we’re seeing a big dip in COVID cases, in a situation where an employee is exposed at work, you must still provide the amended “exclusion pay” which states, “Wages due…must be paid at the employee’s regular rate of pay no later than the regular pay day for the pay period(s) in which the employee is excluded.” If you believe this does not apply to your employee, you must inform them of the denial and why.
Training Requirements and Prevention Plan
Employers must ensure their policies and practices are not only in compliance with the new regulations, but also that employees are trained on the new standards. The additional training required includes information on face coverings, how to receive testing and vaccinations, facts about how the vaccination prevents COVID, and how to access vaccination and sick leave. It is critical that employers also update their organization’s COVID-19 Prevention Plan appropriately and report any outbreaks to their local public health agency.
As you continue on the journey of rapidly changing guidelines, remember to consider your employees and how you can maintain high morale while also achieving compliance. Remember, the Cal/OSHA regulations do not tell you whether you should require employees to be vaccinated or how to implement your specific workplace practices. They are simply offering guidance on ensuring the health and safety of your employees. Be sure to communicate clearly and consistently with your staff on how you are implementing your policies, and provide the necessary training to align with the new standards. By keeping your employees aware and informed is the best way to build trust and show your employees you appreciate their commitment to the company as you adapt together.
Have Questions? Check out the Dept. of Industrial Relations FAQ page.