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Paid sick leave laws possibly expanding further in New England

The legislatures in Connecticut and Vermont are considering bills that would further expand the availability of paid sick leave for workers. As we’ve reported before, paid sick leave laws are beginning to pop up in various parts of the country. However, Maine, unlike some of its neighboring New England states, does not require employers to provide paid sick leave.

In Connecticut, service workers who work for employers with 50 or more employees already have the right to paid sick leave. They can use this paid sick leave to attend to their own medical needs and to the medical needs of a spouse or child. The Connecticut legislature is debating a bill that would expand this law to employers with fewer than 50 employees. The bill would also require employees to pay for their paid leave by contributing %0.25 of their weekly salaries to a fund that they would access when they needed to take sick leave. As we previously reported, this payment mechanism is similar to the mechanism that Rhode Island uses.

In Vermont, the legislature is debating a bill that would require all employers to provide at least three paid sick days per year and five days after the employee had worked for the employer for two years. Even this relatively modest proposal has drawn criticism from the business community who say that this sick leave law would overly burden small businesses. Supporters of the bill have emphasized the benefits to public health. “Do you want a sick food-service worker serving you food?” Rep. George Till asked his colleagues. “Do you want a sick child-care worker taking care of your child? I don’t. It turns out those are two of the areas where the vast majority of workers do not have paid leave. It also turns out those are two areas where infectious diseases are commonly transmitted.”

In Connecticut, supporters of expanding the state’s paid sick leave law have emphasized the devastating effects on a family when a bread winner must take unpaid leave from work due to a medical emergency. Sara Orris, of Stratford, Connecticut, told of the bind her family found itself in when she had to take unpaid leave from work to care for her daughter who has a chronic health condition. “So, we had to go a whole pay cycle without a paycheck,” said Orris. “A whole month’s worth of bills came around, on top of medical bills. It was a frightening time for us.”

Supporters of the bill in Connecticut have also cited benefits for small businesses who offer paid sick leave to employees. The owner of a small shoe store in Milford, Connecticut, has publicly supported the bill. He offers paid sick leave to his employees because he thinks it is the “right thing to do.” He also believes that the policy keeps employee morale high and fosters employee loyalty to the store.