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Bruins express support for extension of paid sick days under new law

Bruin Plaza is pictured. Student workers said an increase in sick days, provided by Senate Bill 616, is beneficial for both workers and the general public. (Brandon Morquecho/Assistant Photo editor)

By Amy Wong

Feb. 4, 2024 6:56 p.m.

This post was updated Feb. 4 at 11:42 p.m.

Student workers and faculty expressed support for the newly implemented California Senate Bill 616, which increased paid sick days for California workers from three to five.

The bill, which was approved in October by Gov. Gavin Newsom but officially went into effect Jan. 1, is one of many Newsom signed before the new year. Under SB 616, workers in California are eligible for five days, or 40 hours, of paid sick leave, an increase from three days, or 24 hours.

This increase in sick days is beneficial for all workers, said Saba Waheed, director of the UCLA Labor Center. Waheed added that higher-wage jobs tend to already have sick days in place, and this bill ensures other workers have sick days as well.

“What California has been doing with its policy is making it accessible to most workers, even if they’re part-time workers, even if they’re hourly workers or temporary workers,” Waheed said. “If, basically, you’re working and accruing hours, you will get sick time.”

Some student workers said sick days are beneficial for both workers and the general public.

Soraya Tofighrad, a third-year English student who works at the Kerckhoff Coffeehouse, said sick days are helpful because they can be used for both physical and mental health. Emily Otero, a fourth-year cognitive science student who works at the Transfer Student Center, said she believes insufficient sick days could also become a public health concern.

“If you’re giving a student or staff a short window of break, you don’t realize that’s probably not enough time, so therefore, them coming back to work early could result in infecting more people,” Otero said. “Having even just one person come back when they’re not fully recovered can cause an on-campus pandemic.”

Employers also benefit from the increase in sick days, said Victor Narro, a project director at the UCLA Labor Center. Narro added that sick days allow workers to stay home when they have a contagious illness, which saves employers money.

“It’s much more costly for employers to have workers in the workplace while they’re sick,” Narro said. “They’re basically saying, ‘Spread that sickness to other workers.’”

In addition to financial benefits, Waheed said sick leave has been shown to increase morale and reduce turnover among staff.

However, not all student workers are aware of the sick day policy at their workplace. Otero said she did not know about hers.

“I wasn’t aware of it,” Otero said. “If we’re given an email regarding a staff announcement, most times, I don’t read those emails. I think being explicitly told in meetings that the sick time will be increased will be beneficial for students.”

Tofighrad said she also did not know about her sick day policy. She added that knowing how many sick days she had would make her less anxious about missing work or finding someone to cover her shift.

The increase from three to five sick days may not be the last, Narro said, adding that he is hopeful for another increase in the future.

“Beyond our wages, the issue of wages and hours, which we always focus on, we think of legislative priorities,” Narro said. “(But) we can also focus on their health and well-being of the workers.”

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