FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 31, 2021
Northam Signs Bill to Provide Paid Sick Days to Cover 30,000+ Home Health Care Workers
New Law Marks First Paid Sick Days Standard in Virginia History; Advocates Will Push to Expand to More Workers
RICHMOND, VA – Today, Gov. Ralph Northam signed a new law providing five paid sick days per year to more than 30,000 Virginia home health care workers starting on July 1, 2021. The new law, an amended version of Del. Elizabeth Guzman’s HB 2137, marks the first standard of paid sick days in Virginia history.
“Paid sick days are the lifeline we need to protect our health,” says Thomasine Wilson, a home care worker and Home Care Chair of SEIU Virginia 512. “Home Care workers keep older adults and people with disabilities safe, and we are essential workers. This new law is a great step to protect our health. Now, we will continue to work to ensure paid sick days for all workers.”
“This is a huge step for home health care workers in Virginia, who play an essential role in our health system – especially during this pandemic,” said Kim Bobo, Executive Director of the Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy, a member of the Virginians for Paid Sick Days coalition. “Thank you to Gov. Northam for signing this legislation and to House and Senate leaders for making it a reality. Today, Virginia provided paid sick days for the first time. This builds momentum for the work ahead to ensure that every Virginia worker has access to paid sick days.”
Paid sick days would allow workers to care for their short-term health needs or those of family members, including going to the doctor and getting tested for COVID-19. Businesses will benefit from higher employee productivity, healthier workplaces, and lower employee turnover. Studies show that employees working while sick cost the national economy approximately $160 billion per year.
“Paid sick leave benefits and supports the health of the community,” said Monica Jackson, owner of Jackson Childcare in Springfield. “This bill is a first step toward providing paid sick leave for more Virginians, which helps protect businesses like mine. If an infectious family attends daycare, the exposure then has a ripple effect. In today’s environment, the daycare may have to close. With closure comes a loss of business income with a continued ripple effect on the other families, resulting in a compounding effect and crippling economically harmful results.”
Even before COVID-19, 41 percent of private sector workers, 1.2 million workers in Virginia, had no paid sick days or any paid time off. A new study by Harvard University researchers shows that only one-third of Virginia service-sector workers at large employers have access to paid sick days. The lack of paid sick days creates a crisis for low-wage workers who must choose between taking a sick day for themselves or caring for a family member and getting paid. If they bring COVID-19 into the workplace, they risk the health of hundreds and potentially thousands of people.
“We at Freedom Virginia are excited for this win for home healthcare workers,” said Maddie Beecher, Executive Director of Freedom Virginia. “More than 30,000 Virginians have just been given access to paid sick leave. This is an unquestionable win for Virginia. We will continue to fight for the 1.2 million Virginians who still remain unprotected. We know the fight is not over yet and Freedom Virginia is ready to keep pushing forward towards a more equitable state for our workers.”
A recent poll from Christopher Newport University’s Wason Center shows that 88% of Virginians support a law that would require employers to provide 5 paid sick days per year.
Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy
Virginians for Paid Sick Days is a coalition of 25 organizations across the state fighting to establish a paid sick day standard that keeps Virginians healthy and keeps our economy running.
The Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy advocates economic, racial, social, and environmental justice in Virginia’s policies and practices through education, prayer, and action. VICPP is a non-partisan coalition of 750 faith communities working for a more just society.