Seattle City Council will vote on a proposal that would require local businesses to provide paid sick days to their employees.
On Aug. 10, the Seattle City Council's human services committee passed legislation sponsored by Chair Nick Licata that requires employers to provide a minimum number of sick days.
Workers can use the time for themselves, to care for a sick family member or to deal with domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking. The legislation sets the number of sick days by company size, requiring five sick days at firms with up to 50 workers, seven at firms up to 250 workers, and nine at firms with more than 250 workers.
If companies already offer paid time off and employ more than 1,000 people, the proposal requires they provide at least one paid hour for every 15 hours of work.
Some business interests oppose the bill, warning that in San Francisco, which passed a similar law four years ago, the extra cost led employers in low-wage fields to reduce staff ("Critics say paid sick days would cause layoffs," RC, July 13).
Twelve economists from the University of Washington say the law will save employers money, in part, by reducing staff turnover.
In an Aug. 5 letter to councilmembers, the economists also pointed to data that show sick employees who show up for work spread illness, costing U.S. employers $180 billion annually in lost productivity.
According to the Economic Policy Institute, nearly 40 percent of Seattle's workers, or an estimated 190,000 people, do not have paid sick days. The institute says many of them work directly with the public, including more than 30,000 in hotels and restaurants and more than 20,000 in health services.
The Seattle City Council plans to take a final vote on the paid sick days legislation on Sept. 12.