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Could a Proposal to Add Paid Sick Days Make it Through This Year's General Assembly Session?

Lawmakers are about to begin a new General Assembly session, and resume an ongoing debate over paid sick days.

Before the pandemic hit, Senate Democrats stopped a proposal to require businesses offer paid sick days. Then during the pandemic they rejected it again. Now Delegate Elizabeth Guzman of Woodbridge has a new strategy to limit the bill to essential workers, a list that includes emergency personnel, teachers, domestic workers and people who work in child care, at food plants or in essential retail. They would all get five paid sick days under her proposal.

"We know that there is slight support in the Senate," Guzman says. "So my conversations we've had with them is that this is something that they would be willing to support. So this will be the beginning."

Senator Dave Marsden is a Democrat from Fairfax County, and he says there's really no reason to limit the bill to essential workers but, he adds, he would only support the new requirement if it's phased in over three years.

"I'm fine with expanding it to everybody, but as long as you ease it in," Marsden says. "Like one day the first year, then maybe three days the second year, maybe five days in the third year — that type of thing."

Guzman says she's willing to work with Marsden and any other reluctant Senate Democrats to finally get some kind of requirement for employees to get paid sick days.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

Michael Pope is an author and journalist who lives in Old Town Alexandria.
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