Governor signs bill guaranteeing paid sick time

Photo: Susan Campbell/WPRI-TV

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Gov. Gina Raimondo signed a bill Thursday requiring Rhode Island employers to provide paid sick leave to employees.

The law, which takes effect next year, will require employers to offer their workers up to three sick days per year in 2018. The number will increase to four days in 2019 and five days thereafter.

The law will impact about 100,000 workers in Rhode Island. Raimondo said it’s a huge stride for the state’s economy.

“The middle class still needs more job security. That’s what this is about,” Raimondo said.

“It’s not enough just to have a job,” she continued. “We need folks to have a good job with a fair and decent wage, and the ability to take a few days off if they get sick or if someone in their family gets sick.”

The law is a compromise reached after there was pushback against the original version, with critics saying it placed an undue burden on small businesses. Changes to the original bill include an added exemption for businesses with fewer than 18 employees, as well as an incremental increase of days over a period of several years.

“The final paid sick leave bill is a significant improvement over earlier proposals,” Mike Blazek, a spokesperson for the Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce, said in a statement. “The more business-friendly bill protects small businesses with less than 18 employees from any new requirements and gives greater flexibility to companies already providing paid leave to continue with their existing policies.”

Raimondo, a Democrat, originally argued in favor of the measure at the beginning of the year during her State of the State address in January. The bill was sponsored by Sen. Maryellen Goodwin and Rep. Aaron Regunberg, both Providence Democrats.