Outten & Golden: Empowering Employees in the Workplace

The 'It Will Hurt Businesses' Argument Against Sick Leave Takes a Hit in Seattle

April 24th, 2014 | Laura Clawson

Laura ClawsonA few American cities (and one state—go, Connecticut!) have started catching up with the rest of the world when it comes to paid sick leave laws. But despite those cities and state and huge number of other countries embracing the notion that sick people should be able to stay home from work, you still hear a lot of American politicians claiming that sick leave is Bad For Business. And of course, whatever is reputed to be bad for business is going to be difficult to pass, even if the facts don’t necessarily back up the claims. But it is good to have facts anyway, and here aresome facts about Seattle’s paid sick leave law, which went into effect in September 2012:

The audit found that 70 percent of employers in the city support the law, with 45 percent saying they are very supportive. This held true for businesses of all sizes. “These business owners, managers, and human resources professionals view paid leave as a valuable and important benefit for their workers,” the report says.It’s not hard to see why they might feel so supportive. The costs and impacts “have been modest and smaller than anticipated,” the audit notes. The majority report no effect on profitability or customer service, with just 17 percent believing that it made them less profitable. The average reported cost of implementing it was about one eighth of a percent of their annual revenue and providing the leave for the first year was on average four tenths of a percent. To deal with any costs, 8 percent raised their prices or otherwise passed the cost on to consumers, 6 percent decreased raises or bonuses, 5 percent decreased vacation time, and just 2.7 percent reduced employment while only 0.7 percent said they closed or relocated.

The law’s success isn’t just about business owners’ feelings, either:

All three measures of employment robustness – the number of Seattle firms with more than four employees, total number of Seattle employees, and total Seattle wages – grew in absolute terms over the first year of the Ordinance.

Not to mention all those people who could stay home from work if they were sick. There’s still work to be done: Some employers either don’t know about or don’t fully understand the law, and aren’t providing the required amount of leave. But the excuses politicians can reasonably make for opposing sick leave laws are rapidly evaporating—not that that will cause many sick leave opponents to stop making excuses.

This article was originally printed on the Daily Kos on April 23, 2014.

About the Author: Laura Clawson is the labor editor at the Daily Kos.

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