Senator Maryellen Goodwin and Representative Aaron Regunberg have introduced an earned sick leave bill intended to benefit nearly 170,000 workers, more than 40 percent of private sector workers in the state. The Healthy and Safe Families and Workplaces Act would enable all employees to earn sick leave to care for their health and the health of their families.
The bill also allows workers to earn time to use as “safe time” for those escaping domestic violence. Under the Act, workers would earn one hour of earned sick and safe time for every 30 hours worked, up to 56 hours or seven days per year.
Supporters of the bill anticipate far-reaching benefits for the state. Seven states, the District of Columbia, and several cities across the country have already benefited from passing sick leave legislation. Businesses in these cities and states have reported higher productivity and greater employee engagement with little to no increase in costs. Workers with earned sick leave are more likely to seek preventative care and treat illness early, curbing the spread of disease. If passed, Rhode Island will join the growing list of states, including neighboring Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Vermont in passing this pro-family legislation.
“The lack of paid sick time disproportionately affects lower income workers, who shouldn’t have to choose between taking a needed day off for a doctor’s visit and paying their bills,” said Goodwin.
“What we’re saying today is that this most basic security is a moral imperative,” said Regunberg, “We should not go another year knowing so many of our neighbors have to go to work while ill, or have to send their children to school sick.”
“My employer used to provide sick time based on preferential treatment. But the fact is, we all get sick,” said Sandra Braz, an activities coordinator at Elmwood Adult Day in Providence, “I’d see my colleagues call out for a few days when they or a family member got sick, but they would lose a piece of their paycheck. I joined with my fellow employees to create a union to call for the benefits we all deserve, including earned paid sick days. Now, I’m so glad we can all take care of ourselves and our families without risking our financial security.”
“Hourly employees are just as important as salaried management,” Kaitlyn Roberts, owner and founder of Easy Entertaining Catering in Providence, “It is paramount to me that we treat them with the same care and dedication that we do to our long-term salaried employees. We have a very low attrition rate on hourlies and every business owner can relate to just how expensive turnover and training is.”
“Without earned sick leave, many people don’t go to the doctor when they think they should because they simply can’t afford to lose that piece of their paycheck,” Dr. Carla Martin, a practicing primary physician at Providence Community Health Centers, “Many patients see no choice but to delay their care. It’s very frustrating to know we could have helped someone if they’d been able to visit us sooner. And of course, more complicated health issues become a huge financial burden on my patients and the broader health care system.”
Kathy McCormick is a member of Sisters Overcoming Abusive Relationships (SOAR) talked about how working for a company with paid sick leave helped her escape from an abusive relationship. “When my abuser began stalking me, it became clear that keeping a job would be challenging if my employer didn’t have some flexible policies,” said McCormick. After she found a job, “The company’s sick time policy allowed me to take the time I needed for doctor’s appointments, particularly when I was pregnant with my son, but my boss’ commitment to allowing me the safe time I needed was critical to my survival and ability to ultimately ge away from my abuser.”