The Vermont Department of Health conducted an HIA of a proposed sick leave policy that would provide paid health care time for every 30 hours worked. Employees could use this leave—up to 56 hours annually—to recover from an illness; seek preventive care; provide care for a family member; coordinate social or legal services; and receive care or counseling after sexual assault, domestic violence, or stalking. The policy was introduced as H. 208 in the 2013 session of the Vermont Legislature but did not pass. It was reintroduced as H. 187 in February 2015 after completion of this HIA.
The HIA found that the legislation would increase access to paid sick leave, particularly for low-wage, part-time workers and employees of small businesses, and would decrease the spread of infectious disease in the state, especially in the child care and food service industries. Paid sick leave would also increase the ability of domestic violence victims to access essential health and social services while maintaining employment. The HIA found limited data to link paid sick leave to preventable hospitalizations but predicted that a 10 percent reduction in hospitalizations would save the state and its residents $6.8 million annually.
The HIA recommended passing and implementing paid sick leave in Vermont with several key modifications to increase the positive health and equity impacts. To maximize health benefits for Vermont’s most vulnerable workers, the HIA recommended that paid sick leave legislation include all employees and provide coverage for those seeking services for domestic or interpersonal violence. It also recommended that the Vermont Department of Health track avoidable hospitalizations and add a question about paid sick leave to its Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, an annual telephone survey of adults conducted in collaboration with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The HIA further recommended providing technical assistance to businesses to create workplace systems and cultures to support sick leave.
The Vermont Department of Health completed the HIA in 2015, and the governor signed mandatory sick leave into law in 2016. During their deliberations, lawmakers invited Department of Health officials to testify on the bill. Against the HIA’s recommendations, the law exempted temporary employees, lessening health benefits for some low-income workers.
This Health Impact Assessment Report first appeared in The Cross-Sector Toolkit for Health. The Cross-Sector Toolkit for Health was originally developed by the Health Impact Project, formerly a collaboration of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and The Pew Charitable Trusts. The creation of this resource was supported by a grant from the Health Impact Project. The views expressed are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Pew Charitable Trusts, or the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.