The bill, which passed the Vermont Senate on February 10 and the House on February 17, is expected to gain Governor Peter Shumlin’s signature. Presuming the governor signs the bill, the law will go into effect on January 1, 2017, for most employers but not until January 1, 2018, for employers with five or fewer employees who are employed for an average of not less than 30 hours per week, according to N. Joseph Wonderly, an attorney with Dinse, Knapp & McAndrew, P.C., in Burlington, Vermont.
The law will require employers to provide employees up to three paid sick days a year for the first two years the law is in effect. After the first two years, the law will require employers to provide up to five paid sick days a year. The law won’t apply to employees who work fewer than 18 hours a week or 20 or fewer weeks in a 12-month period, Wonderly said.
“The law will have a significant impact, most notably on small employers, many of which do not already provide paid sick leave,” Wonderly said. “Even those employers who currently provide paid time off will need to reevaluate their policies to ensure compliance with the new law.”
The law has drawn fire from small-business interests. Kris Jolin, a state representative for the National Federation of Independent Business, said many employers will have difficulty with the new law. “There are different business models throughout Vermont that unfortunately I don’t think the Legislature even considered while passing this bill,” Jolin said during a report on WAMC Northeast Public Radio.
Republican House Minority Leader Don Turner also criticized the bill. “You know this is going to hamper or put people out of business in some circumstances and others it may prevent a startup business from succeeding,” he said in the WAMC report. “This bill is not well thought out. There’s a lot of unanswered questions in this bill.”
Proponents of the bill point to the benefits that come from allowing people to take off work when they’re ill. Annie Accettella of the Voices for Vermont’s Children organization called the bill a boost for working families and for public health. “We’re trying to make it easier for families to have some sort of economic stability when they need to take time off to care for themselves or a family member during illness,” she said. “And then there’s also the public health concern. You know you really don’t want waiters or other food service employees serving you food or making or preparing food while ill.”