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Vt.: Lawmakers Hike Minimum Wage, but Turn Down Paid Sick Leave

By Rita Zeidner  5/20/2014
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The Vermont legislature voted overwhelmingly to hike the state minimum wage to $10.50 by 2018. The measure, passed in the 11th hour of the legislative session that ended May10, raises the minimum wage in phases, from $8.73 to $10.50 by 2018. The wage will jump to $9.60 in 2016, $10 in 2017 and finally $10.50 in 2018. It will be indexed to inflation in subsequent years.

Gov. Peter Shumlin is expected to sign the bill.

However, supporters of a paid sick leave law had their hopes dashed when the legislature failed to act on H. 208. 

At the beginning of the session, backers of the bill felt they had enough votes in the House to pass the measure. But much of that support had eroded by early spring, in part due to pressure  from the state’s small-business lobby.

Growing support for the minimum wage bill may also have worked against a sick leave.

In 2011, Connecticut became the first state to mandate paid sick leave. A survey of Connecticut employers released earlier this year by the Center for Economic and Policy Research and the City University of New York suggests that the cost for businesses has been minimal.

“The many carve-outs and the fact that the vast bulk of the state’s employers covered by the law—those with 50 or more employees—already provided paid sick leave to at least some of their employees are among the factors limiting the impact,” the report concluded.

Researchers saw the largest increases in paid sick leave coverage in the health, education and social services, hospitality and retail industries. Part-time workers, rarely covered before the law took effect, benefited disproportionately from its passage, they found.

Few employers reported abuse of the new law, and many noted positive benefits such as improved morale as well as reductions in the spread of illness in the workplace.

"A year and a half after its implementation, more than three-quarters of surveyed employers expressed support for the earned paid sick leave law," the study concludes.

Rita Zeidner is a freelance business writer and former senior writer for HR Magazine

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