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Move to expand CT's sick day law gets committee approval

Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont
Ryan Caron King
/
Connecticut Public
FILE: Legislation expanding paid sick leave in Connecticut will now advance to the General Assembly (above).

Connecticut lawmakers have advanced legislation seeking to expand the state’s paid sick day law to include all employees in the state.

The move would require workplaces to offer employees 40 hours of paid sick time per year. Current law only mandates this for workplaces with 50 or more employees.

Sick days can be used for time needed to tend to an illness, injury and mental health. The time can also be used toward recovery from family violence or sexual assault. Improving the statute is an issue of gender and racial equity, said Janée Woods Weber, executive director of She Leads Justice, a nonprofit that advocates for women in Connecticut.

“Workers who lack access to paid sick days, also tend to work jobs that don't pay livable wages, or have predictable schedules,” Woods Weber said. “So not being forced to choose between their paychecks and taking off a day or two to recover from an illness also helps to protect their economic security.”

Connecticut’s largest business organization, CBIA, said the high number of open jobs is already making private companies seriously examine employee pay and benefits.

“Companies who can’t offer paid time off are at a significant disadvantage,” Ashley Zane, senior public policy associate at CBIA,wrote in testimony opposing the bills. “Simply because a state statute doesn’t require them to offer paid sick leave, doesn’t mean companies are not offering it.”

Research compiled by the National Partnership for Women & Families shows that having available sick time not only helps employees and their families, but businesses, too.

It actually shows a lot of benefits for employers involving productivity and retention rates and decreasing turnovers and costs associated with hiring and training new staff,” said Tonishia Signore, policy director at She Leads Justice.

The most recent proposed changes would also update the sick day law to make the definition of “family” more inclusive. Woods Weber said it would match Connecticut’s Paid Family Leave’s language, to include domestic partners, parents and individuals considered family.

Connecticut was the first state in the U.S. to pass a sick day law in 2011.

Opponents of the law’s update have shared concerns that mandating 40 hours of sick time for employees will hurt small businesses’ operating costs, negatively impact the economy and is government overreach.

“There's very little in this bill that is going to require anyone to actually be sick, or to verify that they are actually missing time from work for being sick – it's paid time off,” said Republican State Sen. Rob Sampson, a ranking member of the Labor and Public Employees Committee, before Thursday’s vote.

Gov. Ned Lamont, a Democrat, raised one of the bills, which includes caveats that employers have the right to request reasonable documentation when an employee is using three or more consecutive paid sick days. The proposal also says employers can take disciplinary action if the days have been misused.

Workers would have to accrue an hour of sick time for every 30 hours worked under the Senate bill and the governor's bill. Under the House’s proposal, workers would get 40 hours at the start of each year.

The committee voted to advance the three bills, which will now need to be approved by the General Assembly and signed by Lamont to become law.

Correction: A previous version of this story misspelled the name of Tonishia Signore.

As Connecticut Public's state government reporter, Michayla Savitt focuses on how policy decisions directly impact the state’s communities and livelihoods. Michayla has been with Connecticut Public since February 2022, and before that she was a producer and host for audio news outlets around New York state. When not on deadline, Michayla is probably outside with her rescue dog, Elphie. Thoughts? Jokes? Tips? Email msavitt@ctpublic.org.
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