FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 1, 2021
Virginians for Paid Sick Days Applauds Signing of New Paid Sick Day Law
Northam Signs Bill That Will Ensure Paid Sick Days for 30,000 Home Health Workers
RICHMOND, VA – Today, Virginians for Paid Sick Days applauded Gov. Ralph Northam and legislative leaders after the governor held a signing ceremony for legislation that will provide paid sick days to Virginia home health care workers.
The bill, an amended version of Del. Elizabeth Guzman’s HB 2137, marks the first standard of paid sick days in Virginia history. When it goes into effect on July 1, it will provide up to five paid sick days per year to more than 30,000 home health care workers.
“Until now, home care workers had no option but to keep working even when we were sick, injured, and exhausted on the frontlines of a pandemic,” said Thomasine Wilson, a home care worker of over two decades and the Home Care Chair of SEIU Virginia 512. “The ugly legacy of racism and sexism in Virginia has kept us unprotected for so long. With paid sick days, we can finally care for ourselves, the way we care for so many people. Today, I am joyful and thinking about my fellow home care workers united in SEIU Virginia 512. It’s a beautiful day and it’s just the beginning. Home care workers will fight so all Virginians have paid leave, quality health care, at least $15 an hour, and collective bargaining rights. Let’s continue to build.”
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 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.
“Today, Virginia celebrated a historic milestone: the first time the Commonwealth has ever guaranteed paid sick days to workers by statute,” said Kim Bobo, Executive Director of the Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy, a member of the Virginians for Paid Sick Days coalition. “We applaud Gov. Northam, Del. Guzman, and legislative leaders for taking action to provide paid sick days to 30,000 home health care workers in Virginia. We look forward to working together next session to expand paid sick days to all 1.2 million Virginia workers who currently lack them.”
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.
A recent poll from Christopher Newport University’s Wason Center shows that 88 percent of Virginians support a law that would require employers to provide five paid sick days per year to Virginia employees.
“Having support for sick leave for my employees would help me dramatically in my business and the economy for many reasons,” said Fito Garcia, the owner of three restaurants in Fairfax. “First and most important is to help stop the spread of diseases. The workers that are scared to take days off come to work sick and get more of my staff sick and possibly my customers. We don’t want that and it hurts not only my business but the economy. Employees who come in sick also perform less efficiently, making it more costly for me to keep them working. It’s a proven fact also that when an employee feels like they can stay home when they’re sick and have support, they will work harder to keep their job and will be happier to work. Some employees live paycheck to paycheck and can’t afford it so they end up affecting their health, which could lead to more aid needed in the future and potentially cost more overall. These are some of my reasons that I am a big advocate for paid sick leave.”
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, and social 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.