ETS Updates: Exclusion Pay Recommended to Remain in Place
The current Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) for COVID-19 is set to expire on May 6th. A meeting on April 21st at 10am will determine whether it gets re-extended, and whether the requirements/restrictions will be relaxed or remain the same.
Business interests want to end the ETS and replace it with California Department of Public Health (CDPH) guidance and the general Injury and Illness Prevention Program (IIPP) every workplace is required to have by law. This would make it easier for employers to de-prioritize worker COVID protections without consequence, between the fact that (to quote the proposed denial of the petition) “not all CDPH guidance has the force of law” and “the IIPP regulation is intentionally non-specific” (and therefore doesn’t lay out a COVID response.) Fortunately CAL/OSHA Board and Staff both recommend denying this petition.
State health & safety officials point out the fact that the need for the ETS is well established (emphasis added):
As a performance standard, the IIPP was relied on during the initial months of the COVID-19 pandemic, prior to the ETS becoming effective. The Board, after hearing testimony from the public and subject matter experts, determined that relying on the IIPP alone was not providing employers with the necessary information and regulatory structure to best protect employees from COVID-19. As a result, the Board determined that the ETS would be necessary.
This discussion is a good sign for a permanent standard to be put in place in regards to how to handle infectious airborne diseases in the workplace, as all evidence suggests we will face more of them in the years to come. (These emergency rules expire for good in December.)
In other good news, they are proposing to keep exclusion pay in place (which means that if you are sent home because you have COVID due to a workplace exposure, you will get paid for the time you’re missing).
There are other parts of the proposal that are not as great, such as rolling back what remained of masking rules. And the fact is that general public health orders are not meant for specific workplaces, so relying on them in this manner will leave gaps in safety protections for workers.
You can read the whole thing here. Nothing is official yet–we’ll keep you informed about what is actually decided. Stay tuned!