In advance of the expiration of California’s COVID-19 Emergency Declaration at the end of the month, the Office of Administrative Law has approved a Non-Emergency COVID-19 Prevention Regulation (NER). As the name suggests, this regulation replaces Cal/OSHA’s Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) and outlines ongoing measures employers must take to reduce COVID-19 transmission in the workplace. This regulation applies to most businesses in California who are not covered by the Aerosol Transmissible Diseases standard and will remain in effect through February 3, 2025.
The NER brings good news for employers in several key areas……
- Employers are no longer required to provide exclusion pay for COVID-19 cases that are the result of workplace exposure. While COVID-19 cases must still follow the CDPH’s isolation directives, the time off is unpaid, covered by the employee’s accrued paid leave, or compensated through workers’ compensation or state disability benefits, if eligible.
- While testing must still be provided at no cost and during paid time to employees who have close contact with a COVID-19 case at work, employers are no longer obligated to provide testing to employees whose exposure occurred outside the workplace. Testing must still be provided and paid for during outbreaks and when following guidelines from the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) to keep exposed, symptomless employees working or to return COVID cases sooner than the 10-day isolation period.
- Regulations have been revised to allow employers to end outbreak protocols when there is one or fewer new COVID cases in the exposed group for a 14-day period. Under the ETS, outbreak procedures continued until there were zero new COVID-19 cases.
- Definitions of “close contact” and “infectious period” are revised to align with guidance from CDPH.
- Employers are no longer required to maintain a standalone COVID-19 Prevention Plan. Instead, the Injury and Illness Prevention Program must be updated to address COVID-19 as a workplace hazard and include measures to prevent workplace transmission, employee training, and methods for responding to COVID-19 cases at the workplace.
The California Code of Regulations will be updated to include the NER in its entirety. In the meantime, Cal/OSHA has published FAQs that offer additional information and guidance.