February 25, 2021
Virginia Senate Passes Bill to Provide Paid Sick Days for 30,000 Home Health Care Workers

Home Health Workers Paid Sick Bill Now Moves to House for Final Passage, a Key Step Towards Expansion of Paid Sick Days for all Virginians

RICHMOND, VA – Today, the Virginia Senate passed a bill to provide 5 paid sick days per year for 30,000 home health care workers in Virginia. The bill – an amended version of Del. Elizabeth Guzman’s HB 2137 – now moves to the House for final passage.

“This is a huge step forward in the fight for paid sick days,” said Kim Bobo, Executive Director of the Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy, a member of the Virginians for Paid Sick Days coalition. “This marks the first paid sick days bill to pass out of the Virginia Senate since the pandemic. We’re ecstatic to see 30,000 hard-working home health workers on their way to receiving paid sick days. And we look forward to continuing the fight to pass paid sick days for all Virginia workers.”

Under the bill, home health workers will receive paid sick days starting on July 1. Virginia home health care workers are disproportionately women of color; 86% are women and 47% are African-American, according to an analysis of Census data.

“Home Care workers are essential workers, keeping older adults and people with disabilities safe,” said Thomasine Wilson, a home care worker and Home Care Chair of SEIU Virginia 512. “Paid sick days are the lifeline we need to protect our health. Today is a great step towards that, and now we need to ensure paid sick days for all workers.”

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 to care 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.

“This bill is a great first step to help Virginia families get back on their feet,” said Audra Grassia, Executive Director of Freedom Virginia.   “We know that working while sick costs the national economy nearly $160 billion per year.  While this bill doesn’t go nearly far enough to help our businesses and workers, we’re excited that it paves a solid path for the future to pass paid sick days for all Virginians.”

Paid sick days will 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.

“Small businesses in Virginia often have to compete on an uneven playing field with larger firms that can undercut them on costs,” said Awesta Sarkash, Government Affairs Manager for Small Business Majority. “This bill is a step in the right direction to pass a more comprehensive standard to level the playing field for small businesses that already offer paid sick leave with their larger competitors while keeping our workforce healthy.”

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.

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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.