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Vicki Shabo, Vice President

Rhode Island Becomes Eighth State With a Paid Sick Days Law

Vicki Shabo | September 28, 2017

Just last week, Rhode Island lawmakers came together in a special session to pass a strong paid sick days bill. Today, Gov. Gina Raimondo signed that bill into law — securing a major victory for some 100,000 Rhode Islanders who will gain the right to earn paid sick time and bringing the national number of paid sick days laws to 40. Rhode Island will now become the eighth state to guarantee workers paid sick time protections.

The Healthy and Safe Families and Workplaces Act will take effect July 1, 2018, allowing people who work for employers with 18 or more employees to accrue one hour of paid sick time for every 35 hours worked. The law will be phased in, with workers able to accrue and use up to 24 hours of paid sick time in 2018, 32 hours in 2019 and 40 hours in 2020 and beyond. People who work for employers with fewer than 18 employees will be able to use the same amount of unpaid sick time. The new law is both comprehensive and inclusive, covering time off associated with domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking, public health emergencies, and mental or physical illness. Its definition of family also includes domestic partners and care recipients, as well as members of a worker’s household.

Today’s victory for Rhode Island and the national paid sick days movement would not have been possible without the hard work of advocates and legislators who pushed for — and won — this new statewide standard in just two years. In particular, the Rhode Island Earned Sick Days Campaign, led by Rhode Island Working Families, and Rep. Aaron Regunberg and Sen. Maryellen Goodwin were tireless champions of the legislation.

State and local advances like this one help pave the way for a much-needed national paid sick days standard, and have a tremendously positive effect on workers and families, businesses, and the economy. In fact, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data released in July show that the share of private sector workers with access to paid sick days increased dramatically from 61 percent in 2015 to 68 percent today. In the last two years alone, 30 new paid sick days laws have taken effect.

Still, more than 37 million private sector workers cannot paid sick days. That’s why progress must continue and Congress must prioritize the Healthy Families Act, which would give all workers — regardless of their zip codes, employers or job titles — time to recover from illness or care for a sick loved one. In the meantime, more states and cities will follow the lead of Rhode Island and the many other places that are showing the importance and value of guaranteeing this basic right.

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