Introduced by Representatives Head of S. Burlington, Edwards of Brattleboro, Donahue of Northfield, Donovan of Burlington, Emmons of Springfield, French of Randolph and Sweaney of Windsor
Subject: Labor; paid absence; personal or family health care
Statement of purpose: This bill proposes to require employers to provide paid sick days each year for each employee.
AN ACT RELATING TO PAID SICK DAYS
It is hereby enacted by the General Assembly of the State of Vermont:
Sec. 1. FINDINGS
(a) It is a rare employee who has never needed to take time off from work because the employee is sick or injured; time is needed to care for a sick or injured family member; or time is needed to obtain scheduled preventative, routine, or therapeutic health care for himself or herself or for a family member.
(b) More than one-half of all private sector employees have no paid sick days and are forced to either forgo income or jeopardize their health, the health of a family member, or the health of fellow employees.
(c) Low income employees are less likely to have any paid sick days and therefore are more likely to go to work sick rather than forgo needed income. The majority of low income workers are clustered in service sector jobs with significant public contact such as food services, retail sales, child care, and health care. The increased possibility of infecting the public as well as co‑workers has both health and financial implications that extend well beyond the employee’s workplace.
(d) Many employees who do have paid sick days are not permitted to use them to care for sick family members, particularly young children and elders.
(e) Preventive and routine health care can prevent illness or injury, minimize recovery time, and reduce the need for more costly medical or emergency treatment.
(f) When parents are available to care for sick children, children tend to recover faster, avoid more serious illness, and experience improved mental and physical health. When sick children are sent to schools and day care centers because a parent cannot afford to leave work to care for them, these children infect other children and adults, spreading sickness and increasing time lost from work or school.
(g) It has been a goal in Vermont to help and encourage elders to age in place, primarily at home, when possible. This goal is difficult to attain when relatives are not available to care for them at home when they are sick.
(h) Providing paid sick days so that employees can tend to their own health needs and those of close family members reduces stress and anxiety and goes a long way toward creating a stable, productive, and happy workforce.
(i) Employers who provide paid sick days derive other financial benefits in addition to the benefit of less employee turnover and a healthier workforce. Studies show that productivity losses that result from “presenteeism,” the circumstance in which employees go to work sick, are far more costly to employers than are the costs and productivity losses from absenteeism.
Sec. 2. 21 V.S.A. § 472b is added to read:
§ 472b. PAID SICK DAYS
(a) During any 12-month period, an employer shall provide each employee who works:
(1) Thirty or more hours per week with no fewer than seven paid sick days.
(2) Fewer than 30 hours per week with a pro-rated number of paid sick days.
(b) Sick days provided as required under subsection (a) of this section:
(1) Shall accrue at least monthly and may be used as accrued.
(2) Shall be counted on an hourly basis or in the smallest increment that the employer’s payroll system uses to account for other absences, when the period of absence is shorter than a normal workday.
(3) May be lent by the employer to an employee in advance of accrual by the employee.
(4) Shall be carried over to the following calendar year, if unused, but accrued sick days shall not exceed seven days, unless the employer provides otherwise.
(c) Paid sick days under this section may be used by an employee for any absence from work necessitated by any of the following:
(1) The employee’s physical or mental illness or injury.
(2) Obtaining professional diagnostic, preventative, routine, or therapeutic health care for the employee.
(3) Caring for a sick or injured child, parent, parent-in-law, grandparent, spouse, stepchild, foster child, or ward of the employee who lives with the employee, including helping that relative obtain diagnostic, preventative, routine, or therapeutic health treatment.
(d) An employee shall notify the employer of intent to take sick days under this section when an absence is foreseeable. An employee shall attempt to schedule any preventative or routine health care outside work hours and shall schedule absences to minimize disruption in the workplace. A request to use paid sick days shall:
(1) Be provided as soon as practicable after the employee is aware of the need.
(2) Provide a general explanation for the absence and its expected duration.
(e) An employer may require certification from a health care provider to verify the need for sick days when the absence continues for more than three consecutive work days. Certification under this subsection shall be provided no later than 30 days after the commencement of the absence. If a fee is required to acquire the requested certification, the employer shall be responsible for payment or reimbursement of any expenses related to acquiring the requested certification that are paid by the employee and not covered or reimbursed by health insurance or other payment program.
(f) An employer who possesses any health care information about any individual acquired pursuant to this section shall:
(1) Maintain the information on a separate form and in a separate file from other personnel information.
(2) Treat this information as a confidential health care record.
(3) Not disclose this information except to the affected employee or with the written permission of that employee.
(g) An employer that provides paid leave time options that permit an employee to take as many paid sick days as are required by this section shall be deemed to be in compliance with this section. An employer may provide more paid sick days than is required by this section. Nothing in this subchapter shall be construed to diminish the requirements of any collective bargaining agreement or any employment benefit program or plan that provides more generous paid sick days than provided by this section.
(h) Notice of the provisions of this section in a form provided by the commissioner of labor shall be posted by an employer in a place conspicuous to employees at the place of business.
The Vermont General Assembly
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