The Debate Over Paid Sick Days Continues in Richmond

Feb 25, 2020

With less than two weeks left in the General Assembly session, lawmakers are still hashing out an agreement on paid sick days.

The effort to give five paid sick days to workers across Virginia is moving through the House and Senate, although advocates did not get everything they wanted and businesses are still wary of taking on too much too quickly.

Freshman Republican Senator Jen Kiggans of Virginia Beach is one of two Republicans to vote in favor of the bill on the Senate floor.

“The reason I voted for that that was just because that’s where I live and work," she says. "I’m a primary care nurse practitioner. So I want people to go to the doctor. I want people not to go to work if they’re sick. I want people to seek regular preventative medical care, which often requires time away from work."

One potential stumbling block is an exemption for airline ground crew workers. Lawmakers are still working through that idea.

Republican Senator Bill Stanley was an original co-patron on the bill, but then he ended up voting against it when it was on the Senate floor.

“I think the obligation ultimately it put on private business was a little much to take in one bite," Stanley explains. "And I think we could ease something a little more slowly upon the private sector, which would be more beneficial to the worker and to the employer as well.” 

He’s not alone in wondering if the bill goes too far for businesses. Earlier in the session Governor Ralph Northam suggested it should apply to businesses that have 25 employees or more, a change advocates worry would make the bill essentially meaningless because most businesses would be excluded.

If the bill passes before lawmakers leave town next month, Northam will have the ability to change it any way he wants, and then lawmakers will come back and consider those amendments.

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