What does this bill do?
It allows employees to earn up to 56 hours of paid leave in a year. They will be able use this leave to address their own health and safety needs and those of their family members.
What laws about sick leave are already in place?
State and federal law only protects unpaid leave in certain cases. Paid leave benefits are not guaranteed under current Vermont law.
In the United States, the following places have existing paid sick time laws:
- Connecticut, 2011
- San Francisco, 2006
- Washington D.C., 2008
- Seattle, WA, 2011
- Portland, OR, 2013
- New York City, 2013
Why is this bill necessary?
The workforce and the economy have changed and workplace standards need to keep pace. Two-parent working households, working single parents, and adults caring for their aging parents describe the majority of Vermont’s workforce. We all want to be able to care for our loved ones when we need to. We also all get sick at times. Being able to access pharmacies, clinics, pediatricians, and specialists is preferable to relying on emergency services or delaying necessary care. Paid sick time improves economic stability and job security, is good for public health, and promotes a healthy economy.
Why is this the right thing to do?
Everyone has the right to work with dignity, and everyone has the right to be as healthy as possible. None of us should have to choose between our health and our ability to support ourselves and our loved ones. Nobody should be forced to sacrifice their health, or that of their loved ones, because they can’t afford to take a day off work.
How do paid sick days protect public health?
When employees go to work sick because they can’t afford to miss a day of work unpaid, other employees and patrons get sick. When children go to school sick because their parents can’t miss work, other children and staff get sick. In turn, many households are exposed to illness, as are all the other workplaces, schools, and public places that members of those households visit. This is how epidemics spread rapidly. When we give people the ability to stay at home when sick, we are also giving our community the means to drastically slow the transmission of influenza and other contagious diseases.
When people can’t take paid sick time, not only do illnesses spread, but everyone’s healthcare costs increase. If this law passes, Vermont taxpayers will save five million dollars a year in reduced emergency room visits alone. And, independent studies prove that when people have paid sick days they receive the preventive care they need and are more likely to catch chronic conditions early which improves their lives and helps keep everyone’s healthcare costs down.
How much paid sick time will people really use?
Most employees will not use all their accrued paid leave. The typical worker will use 3-5 days in a year. Employees tend to treat it as a type of insurance, recognizing that it will allow them to maintain the financial stability of their family even if an unexpected illness or emergency arises. Employees regard it as a valuable asset to be preserved for times of true need.
Don’t lots of people already have some kind of time off?
Many employers do voluntarily provide some paid time off. However, many employers do not. Fewer than 50% of private sector employers in Vermont provide paid sick time to their employees and roughly 25% provide no form of paid time at all. Those who lack this benefit also tend to earn lower wages and cannot afford to lose income from missing work. Even one missed day can have a snowball effect on an entire month’s budget. For many low- income workers, just 3 days of missed work can translate to an entire month’s food budget.
I am a small business owner. How much will this cost me?
Most employees will never use all of their accrued leave. However, the cost of providing even the maximum of 56 hours of paid leave to an employee pales in comparison to the cost of a new hire. The gross cost of the proposed paid sick time standard to businesses not currently meeting the requirements represents a one-time payroll increase of between 1 and 2.5%. Meanwhile, paid sick time policies result in indirect savings to businesses including reductions in staff turn-over and influenza transmission rates. According to a study done by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research in the spring of 2013, H.208 is anticipated to yield a net savings to VT employers of $3 million due to reductions in turn-over and flue contagion alone.
Why should it be the responsibility of employers to pay for this?
Employees’ ability to earn time off for health care needs should be treated as a component of their wages. Just as with any increase to minimum wage, some employers will fear the added cost, but most employers in places where similar legislation has already been put in place report that it has saved them money. Reduced employee turnover and training costs, reduced contagion among employees, and improved ability to predict payroll costs are all benefits that directly save employers money. Earned sick time is an investment in a healthier workplace for owners, employees, customers, and clients. A healthier staff makes for a more stable and productive workforce.
How will this legislation impact Vermont’s economy?
Vermont’s economy is built on stable, tight-knit communities and successful small businesses. Paid sick days are good for Vermonters and Vermont’s businesses. One of the best ways to get our local economy going is to keep money in the pockets Vermonters so that we can spend it in Vermont; paid sick days help Vermonters keep their jobs and their income when either they or a family member get sick or need to see a doctor. Vermont business owners who provide paid sick days to their employees report a more stable, reliable, and long-term workforce. None of us should have to choose between our health and our ability to support our selves and our loved ones. Vermont employers know the value of good employees who stay with them and help their businesses grow. This bill ensures that all employers in Vermont provide jobs that build our communities, reflect our values, and support our families.