Should Vt. businesses be required to provide paid sick time? - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Should Vt. businesses be required to provide paid sick time?

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From beer to bread, every sale counts during the winter months at Harborside Harvest Market in North Hero.

"We're the closest thing the islands has to a supermarket," said Todd Keyworth, who owns the Harborside Harvest Market.

The store has to be flexible since it makes most of its money three months of the year. But rigid mandates could soon be coming.

Keyworth says he's afraid for his businesses survival if a bill in the Vermont Statehouse passes. The bill would ensure all workers could take paid sick time off from their job.

"We work very closely with our staff; they're an extension of our family," Keyworth said.

Keyworth, like many others, testified before the House Committee on General Housing and Military Affairs Thursday.

The proposed bill would require employers to provide up to 56 hours or seven workdays a year for full-time workers in paid sick time that would be accumulated based on hours worked.

"At some point legislation becomes important because you have to address the need that's driving this," said Lindsay DesLauriers of the Paid Sick Days Coalition.

The Paid Sick Days Coalition is leading this effort for a change in the law. DesLauriers says people are having to make decisions that are impacting public health because they don't have paid sick days.

"When people are going to work sick they're putting other people at risk and sending children to school sick," she said.

Keyworth says he doesn't want his employees showing up sick and works with them to switch their shifts, but paying for sick days would be tough.

"This expense will amount to $8,500 a year for my business," he said. "I make my money selling coffee, bread and milk. That's a significant amount of change, in fact, it's four months of electric bills."

"Seventy-five percent of businesses in the private sector are already providing some form of paid time off, so for the majority of businesses, they won't see an added expense," DesLauriers said.

Harborside Market is one of the 25 percent of businesses in the state that would. And Keyworth says he'd have to consider laying off people to cover the added expense.

Right now there are no federal requirements for paid sick leave.

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