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Photo is of Michelle Noehren with her new baby Lillian and Connecticut Senator Edith Prague, one of the biggest champions of paid sick leave legislation.

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Connecticut has made history by passing the first law requiring companies to provide paid sick leave to their employees and this past Friday Governor Dannel Malloy signed the bill into law. It’s taken several years and many legislative battles to get here but I’m proud that my state is leading the way in implementing this very important workplace reform.

As I’ve blogged about before (Sandwich Generation in a Pickle?, Working Moms-to-be Need Support Too, Pay Equity and Sick Leave: Working Mom Issues, Fight for Paid Sick Days) paid sick days are critical for working mothers in particular. We tend to be the main caretakers of not only our children but all members of our families (including our elderly relatives). If our child is sick and needs to stay home from daycare or school, we are the parent or caregiver most likely to stay home, not our partners/spouses. Access to paid sick days helps ensure that working mothers aren’t forced to choose between taking care of our families and losing pay or neglecting the health and needs of our loved ones.

Connecticut’s new law applies to companies with 50 or more employees that are in the service industry. Workers accrue one hour of paid sick time for every 40 hours worked and can earn a total of 5 paid sick days that can be carried over into the next year, however, an employee cannot accrue more than 5 sick days. An employee can use a paid sick day to take care of his/her own illness, the illness of their child and/or spouse and for care needed as a result of situations of domestic violence or sexual assault. While it would be great to see the bill reach even further and apply to companies with less than 50 employees and be extended to caring for elderly relatives, the current legislation is a great step forward.

We, at the Connecticut Permanent Commission on the Status of Women, are thrilled that we have been able to play a critical role in passing this reform. We co-chair the Everybody Benefits Coalition which has been the leading force behind the campaign, testified in support of the bill, have continuously blogged about the topic, worked to expand the coalition, framed the issue as a women’s issue, compiled multiple research briefs and even helped recreate and maintain the coalition’s website.

Working women have the most to gain from legislation such as paid sick days because it allows us to better balance our work and family lives and helps ensure our economic stability. And paid sick days legislation is really just the beginning: a larger discussion about the lack of paid maternity leave is truly the future of the movement for workplace reforms that benefit working women and families.

Michelle Noehren is the Events & Special Projects Manager at the Connecticut Permanent Commission on the Status of Women. She has her own blog at called Politics of Motherhood. Additionally, she serves on the Connecticut National Organization for Women’s Board of Directors.

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