In response to continued difficulties posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, UC President Michael Drake has extended the use of Emergency Paid Sick Leave, or EPSL, to all UC employees hired on or before Sept. 30, 2021, effective Oct. 1, 2021 until June 30, 2022.
Per state guidelines, EPSL was established by the University of California on Jan. 1, 2021 and was set to expire Sept. 30, 2021. The order allocated 80 hours of paid sick leave to employees for reasons related to COVID-19, including self-quarantine or isolation orders, testing or vaccination, caring for another individual in quarantine and childcare due to school closures.
“Emergency paid sick leave is extremely important because it creates an ability for workers to stay home from work if they are feeling sick,” said Ken Jacobs, chair of the UC Berkeley Center for Labor Research and Education. “We have tremendous evidence that when workers don’t have paid sick leave, we have high levels of presenteeism — that is, people going into work while they are feeling sick — and we know that leads to a large amount of disease transmission.”
The University of California’s extension of EPSL does not add any hours to the 80 hours available from 2021 entitlement. Rather, it allows more time for employees to use those hours.
Pam Egan, director of the Labor-Management Partnerships program at the UC Berkeley Labor Center and member of UAW Local 5810, which is the Union of Postdocs and Academic Researchers, added that UAW has been advocating for the extension of Expanded Paid Administrative Leave, or EPAL, which was first adopted by the University of California toward the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
EPAL differs from ESPL in that it was mandated March 1, 2020, in response to the pandemic and permitted employees to take up to 128 hours of paid leave. EPAL expired June 30, 2021, but some employees have been calling for its extension.
Elizabeth Geno, treasurer of University Professional and Technical Employees, noted that paid leave should be available for transportation costs associated with vaccinations and testing for employees’ family members, as well as to provide for child care or elder care.
Individuals with children or other caregiving responsibilities often face challenges due to not having enough time off for parental leave, according to Neal Sweeney, president of UAW Local 5810. He noted that this was one of the factors that drives women, in particular, out of research fields and academia in general.
“For many families, responsibilities and challenges have increased, while resources to meet those responsibilities have decreased due to the pandemic,” Egan said in an email. “Further, these stresses disproportionately affect Black workers, Latinx workers, and other communities of color, women, families with children, workers and family members with disabilities, sexual and gender minority groups, tribal members, and low-wage workers.”
UCOP could not be reached for comment as of press time.
Contact Amy Zeng at [email protected].
A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that UC President Michael Drake extended the use of Emergency Paid Sick Leave, or EPSL, to all UC employees. In fact, the extension of EPSL is available to all UC employees hired on or before Sept. 30.