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Morning Edition

Bill Would Require N.H. Employers To Offer Five Sick Days Per Year

NHPR Staff

A bill going before New Hampshire lawmakers would require employers to offer workers 40 hours of paid sick leave per year.

House Democrat Mary Stuart Gile of Concord is one of the sponsors, and says under the legislation, businesses with fewer than 15 employees would be exempt.

"Essentially, this bill is looking at workers in the service areas and who work part-time," she said. "For example, under our bill, people who work in offices but are not full-time workers would be able to have paid sick days."

Gile says the 40-hour requirement would apply to full-time workers, while part-time employees would accrue sick time on a pro-rated basis.

State business groups have opposed efforts to pass such a mandate in the past.

In his State of the Union address Tuesday night, President Obama made the case for making paid sick and family leave mandatory at the federal level.

It’s estimated that 43 million American workers currently don’t have access to any paid sick leave.

Such a requirement would need Congressional approval, but in the meantime, the president says individual states should take action.

Here in New Hampshire, Gile has pushed for the state to adopt its own requirement for employers to offer paid sick and family leave.

She joined Morning Edition to talk about the issue.

What’s your reaction to the president making this issue a priority?

Paid sick leave across the nation is long overdue. The United States is way behind in its policies to support working families.

The reality is the president’s proposal will likely face significant pushback in a Republican-controlled Congress, so let’s look at the Granite State.

Currently, New Hampshire, like most states, has no requirement for employers to offer any paid sick or family leave. You’ve pushed to change that. So what’s the argument?

The argument for is it is economically a good idea. It is cost effective. Studies have shown that despite what people throw at you in terms of the gloom and doom, that in those states that have paid sick leave and in those companies that have paid sick leave, the results are very positive. Employees stay in the company, they contribute to the future of the company. Offering benefits such as paid sick leave or paid family leave works in other countries and works very well.

What does the opposition have to say, though, against it? We’re talking about a business expense, so what is their argument here in the Granite State for saying no to this?

In the long run, it is not a business expense. In the long run, I think businesses will find that workers are more productive, they are more loyal to the business, they want to do a better job.

You chair a legislative task force that looked at issues of work and family. What do we know about who does and doesn’t have access to paid leave in New Hampshire? How big of an issue is this for workers and the economy?

In 2009, the task force initiated an economic analysis of paid sick leave. The data that they found was that 215,800 private-sector New Hampshire workers lacked paid sick days, so that established a need. That’s 42 percent of our workforce.

Are there any plans to bring this issue up in the current legislative session, or do you see it coming up in light of the president’s focus on the issue?

We will bring it in. The bill has been filed and it will be presented to the labor committee. The bill that is being proposed in New Hampshire proposes 40 hours a year, which would be the equivalent of five days. That is only for those employers who have nothing and for those employers who have more than 15 employees. Anyone who runs a small business is not required to implement this bill.

Further, if an employer is currently offering flexible leave policies, consolidated leave policies, or paid time off, they are all exempt. The majority of our employers do offer some type of benefit. So essentially, this bill is looking at workers in the service areas and who work part-time. For example, under our bill, people who work in offices but are not full-time workers would be able to have paid sick days. They would accrue it on a pro-rated basis. Many people who work less than 30 hours do not have paid sick leave.

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