VT Paid Sick Leave Law Explained

There is a pie sitting in my fridge right now. Why? Because while discussing the state of our nation and our economy with a friend, I roughly cited how dismally low the federal minimum wage was. Living in a state where our own minimum wage is a whole $2.35 higher than the FMW (but still nearly impossible to live on), my friend couldn’t believe the FMW was possibly as low as I’d stated. A bet ensued, and I won a pie. The FMW, if you were wondering, is $7.25. If you don’t believe me, please bake me a pie.

This is to say that I enjoy reading and talking about labor laws as a past time. But googling news stories on some of them makes it really hard to determine just exactly how they will effect any given individual, such as myself. So, I’ve gone straight to the source for you, and am open to bets on my accuracy of interpretation.

So, I looked at the exact legislation that our governor signed into law regarding paid sick leave. VPR actually had a fairly good post that answered some, but not all of my questions.

The VPR post mentions that employees that work 18 or more hours a week and 20 or more weeks a year are entitled to paid sick leave. Personally, I was very enthusiastic to hear that some seasonal employees (like me!) would be covered. But, I was curious how it would actually break down.

The answer is: for every 52 hours an employee works, they earn one hour of paid sick leave.

This is why when the media has talked about it, they sum it up that, in 2018, employees will earn 5 paid sick days. Here’s the math:

52 weeks a year * 40 hours a week = 2080 hours worked in a year

2080 hours / 52 (the mandated accrual rate) = 40 hours of paid sick leave

40 hours sick leave / 8 hours a day = 5 days of sick leave

Why did I say in 2018? Well, because although the law goes into effect in 2017, employers can cut you off at just 3 days in 2017. Also, in 2018 and beyond your employer can also cut you off from accruing more than 5 days a year, if you work more than 2080 hours a year.

Sick days roll over year to year. This is not true for a seasonal employee, like myself who is technically terminated each spring and rehired each fall at a ski resort. I will start each November with 0 sick days, however, the sick time I earn in November and December will carry on to the next calendar year and the remainder of that ski season then, when I transition to my warm season job, I will start back at 0 again, even if I worked there previously. (My current warm season job, because it is a small business, doesn’t have to let me use paid sick days until 2019. More on that later). Then the next November, back to 0. And the November after that.

But of you work the same job all year, they roll over year to year. Pretty cool.

Employers can make you wait up to a year to use your sick days if you are a new hire. During that year, however, you will accrue sick leave.

Those salary employees who are overtime exempt (which starting December 1st, will include less employees than it does now), may be limited to having a maximum 40 hours per week counted toward the 52 hours needed to earn 1 hours off.

Small employees with 5 or less employees do not have to offer paid sick days at all until 2018, and even then, all employees can start accruing sick days but can be made to wait until 2019 before they are able to actually use a paid sick day.

Per diem employees are not covered.

Of my six jobs in 2015, just one of them would qualify me for paid sick leave in 2017. (To be fair, one job was in New Hampshire, so this VT law wouldn’t apply. One job was per diem, two were too short of a season, and one was too few hours a week).

Phew! That’s a lot of details. No wonder the media outlets assumed no one cared. But to the folks who may be earning sick leave for the first time in their lives, this is HUGE. We want to know when and how! Because we’ve worked when we’re sick and it sucks.

And now some more math, for those wondering how much this will cost employers. Let’s say you make $10.40/hour. We’ll pretend its 2018 and you’re getting the full 5 days per year.

$10.40 an hour * 53 hours = $551.20

Why 53 hours? because, assuming that sick day is actually used, it ‘s like getting paid for a 53rd hour for every 52 you work.

So let’s divide $551.20 by 52 hours to get $10.60. Remember, you only actually worked 52 hours, but got paid for 53.

To really over simplify things, this paid sick day law, for an employee making $10.40 an hour is the equivalent to a 20 cent raise. Once again, that assumes that the paid sick time is actually used. Some folks rarely get sick, and might prefer the raise, but the paid sick time is the law. Don’t forget that new employees, who generally wouldn’t be eligible for raises, don’t have to be allowed to use sick leave until a year is up.

Might it mean some folks see less of a raise than they would have otherwise as this goes into effect? Of course. This math was to show the potential magnitude . There really is not such thing as free lunch. Because realistically, if we gave everyone 20 cent raises instead of paid sick days, they may spend that money (rather than saving it for when they need a day off) and still show up at work sick. Which, keeping people home when they are sick is the entire point of this law.

One more caveat- remember the minimum wage? You’re actually only guaranteed to get the state minimum wage while you are out sick. Which would make the above math moot except my hope is that employers would take the high road and give the same rate as the hourly pay.

Heck, employers are welcome to take the high road all over the place and give employees more sick leave then required! Who knows where this might lead!



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