MONTPELIER — Governor Peter Shumlin signed the Paid Sick Days bill into law this morning in a ceremony held in the House Chamber. Dozens of advocates and supporters joined the Governor to celebrate Vermont’s becoming the 5th state to enact such a law.
The legislation establishes a mandatory minimum requirement for Vermont employers to provide employees with paid time off when the employee is sick, or to care for a child or family member who is sick, or to access services for domestic abuse survivors.
In Vermont, an estimated 60,000 private-sector workers currently do not have the ability to earn a single day of paid sick time. As the law goes into effect, these workers will gain access to 3 days/year and then eventually 5 days/year of earned time off.
The stated purpose of the law is “to promote a healthier environment at work, school, and in public by ensuring that employees are provided with paid leave time for purposes of health care and safety.”
“Access to paid sick time matters to children and families,” explained Annie Accettella, of Voices for Vermont’s Children. “This new law will mean that parents and caregivers can take care of their children without sacrificing a day’s pay,”
The new law will also allow a domestic abuse survivor to take paid time off to seek services.
“The State of Vermont has worked for decades to develop a comprehensive range of services and protections for survivors of domestic and sexual violence, but survivors need the flexibility to access these services in the safest way possible,” Auburn Watersong, Associate Director of Public Policy at the VT Network Against Domestic and Sexual Violence, explained. “Sometimes the safest time to seek counseling, health care, or legal protection is during work hours. Court hearings only happen during business hours, which requires many survivors to take time off from work. This new law will provide an absolutely critical window of time for survivors to seek safety and protection for themselves and their children.”
Advocates have worked on the Paid Sick Days bill for close to a decade. The bill passed the House of Representative in April of 2015 with a vote of 72-63. In February of 2016, the Senate passed an amended version of the bill with a vote of 21-8, and then the bill was passed again when Senator Bill Doyle (R-Washington) asked to reconsider the bill. On February 17, 2016, the House of Representatives agreed to accept the Senate’s amendments and passed the bill in final form with a vote of 81-64.
The new law phases in the requirement to provide paid sick days to employees over two years. Employers who have more than five employees will be required to provide the benefit in 2017. Employers with five or fewer employees will be required to provide the benefit in 2018.