Mandatory paid sick days for state residents proposed
HARTFORD — Majority Democrats in the General Assembly on Tuesday proposed legislation that would give paid sick days to as many as 1.6 million workers employed by smaller businesses.
State Sen. Julie Kushner, DDanbury, co-chairman of the legislative Labor Committee, said during a morning news conference in the state Capitol complex that many occupations have been left out of previous requirements dating back to 2011. “There are also restrictions on the sectors that it covers, so there are many occupations that are left out, as well as many small employers,” Kushner said.
“One of the things we learned during the pandemic is that’s it’s really essential to have paid sick days, because otherwise they might not take that COVID test, because they’re afraid they’re going to get a positive and they cannot afford a day off from work,” Kushner said. “So the paid sick days is really important to make sure those workers have that protection.”
Current requirements for 40 hours of sick time per year cover only those employers with more than 50 workers. The benefit dates back to 2011 and legislation signed into law by then-Gov. Dannel Malloy.
The new proposal would require employers with fewer than 50 workers to provide the benefit as well. Kushner stressed that paid sick days are not to be confused with the state’s 2019 law that in 2022, set up a paid sick leave program for workers to received as many as 12 weeks of benefits to help take care of ailing family members or themselves.
Current requirements for 40 hours of sick time per year cover only those employers with more than 50 workers. The proposal would require employers with fewer than 50 workers to provide the benefit as well.
Kushner said that the Democratic caucus, which holds a 24-12 majority in the Senate, also wants to push for so-called predictable scheduling, requiring the retail, food service and hospitality industries to provide notice of shifts as many as 14 days ahead of time.
“We know that so many workers in our state are working two and three jobs,” Kushner said. “And they have make choices every day about the scheduling of how you manage different employers and different schedules.” It would affect employers with at least 500 workers that operate at least 30 locations.
If a schedule were to be changed within seven days, workers would receive half of their hourly pay. “It has been done in other states and other cities, and I know we can make it possible for workers to juggle many different jobs and also their family lives,” Kushner said.
During a roll out of legislative goals for the current session on Tuesday, Senate Democrats promised to push for more public school teachers, smaller class sizes and programming to provide more resources for mental and behavioral health.
State Sen. Doug McCrory, DHartford, the co-chairman of the legislative Education Committee, said that recruiting more minority teachers is a key to helping children in urban classrooms.
“All the research shows that our children learn better when they are taught by a diverse teaching population,” McCrory said. “We need some more Black teachers, we need some more brown teachers, we need some yellow teachers, because in Connecticut 91 percent of the teachers are white. That’s great, because we need to retain them, but we also need to diversify.”
In recent years state lawmakers and Gov. Ned Lamont have made recruitment of minority teachers a priority.
“We have a plan and we have resources and we’re going to execute this year on recruiting and retaining a diverse teaching population,” said McCrory, a 33-year educator. “No longer can we sit back and allow our chuildren not to be prepared for the 21st Century.”
He stressed the need to teach children computer skills and financial literacy.