Paid sick days for all workers? Democrats plan new push this year
If you have to call out sick, most employers in Connecticut aren’t required to pay you.
That could finally change.
Democrats announced a new push to guarantee nearly all workers in Connecticut paid sick days on Friday. But – as in years past – the proposal faces stiff opposition from Republicans and small businesses who say they can’t afford it.
“WE FEEL A LOT OF PAIN"
The expansion could benefit 1.6 million people, including domestic workers like Patricia Bispro.
“It is not fair for us, when we work many hours at a time,” she told reporters through a translator. “We feel a lot of pain in our body.”
Under current law, only businesses with more than 50 employees have to offer sick days. And even then, only “service workers” qualify – including cashiers, nurses, child care workers and hair stylists. That’s only 12% of the state’s workforce. Manufacturing workers do not qualify for paid sick leave.
NEW EXPANSION PUSH
On Friday, Democrats on the General Assembly’s Labor and Public Employees Committee said they will try again to extend paid sick time to all private-sector workers.
“No one should have to make a choice between taking care of themselves or a loved one when they’re sick and losing their job,” said Tonishia Signore, policy director for the advocacy group She Leads Justice.
The committee plans to introduce a bill this session requiring all private-sector employers to offer 40 hours per year of paid sick time, regardless of the industry or size of the business.
“Everybody gets sick,” said Janée Woods Weber, She Leads Justice’s executive director. “Everybody deserves the time to care for themselves or for their loved one – no matter what kind of job they have, no matter how small their employer is.”
Eight states and Washington, D.C., now require all private employers to offer sick time.
Most employers already offer sick days voluntarily, but some small businesses say it’s too expensive.
“A one-sized-fits-all solution isn’t necessarily in the best interest of every small business in Connecticut,” said Ashley Zane, with the Connecticut Business and Industry Association. “Not everybody can afford to offer sick leave, especially if they're already offering medical, dental, and those types of benefits.”
CBIA helped defeat a similar proposal last year. Another bill offered a compromise – extending sick leave for companies with more than 10 workers – but labor groups rejected the idea.
“We’re open to compromise,” said Zane. “As always, devil is in the details. So whether it would be hours, whether it’s the industry sectors that this is applicable to, the size of the company.”
Unlike last year’s version, workers would not get any additional sick days under the new proposal. They would still accrue sick time faster, though.
Republicans are already taking a hard line.
“This shows how out of touch the majority is. Burdening Connecticut job creators with unfunded mandates is a top priority for Senate Democrats?” said Senate GOP leader Kevin Kelly (R-Stratford) and Labor ranking member, state Sen. Rob Sampson (R-Wolcott). “Do they not realize 48.5% of tax filers in Connecticut earn less than $45,000? That is a shocking statistic.”
Supporters argue that small businesses are losing more money without sick days – and putting workers’ safety at risk. “They may be coming to work sick because they cannot afford to miss work,” said state Rep. Anne Hughes (D-Easton). “It really costs lives that we don’t have this, especially after the pandemic.”
Bispro said it’s also a moral issue.
“We are human beings and we also feel pain,” she said. “We get sick.”
Some employers agree.
“As a small-business owner with fewer than 10 employees, paid time off is one of the only benefits that I can easily afford to offer my employees, versus health insurance or a 401k," said Liz Ceppos, owner of Cross Culture Kombucha in Danbury.
Lawmakers did make one change to Connecticut’s sick leave law in 2023. Workers can now use the time for a mental health wellness day, and if their child is the victim of family violence or sexual assault (as long as the worker is not the perpetrator).