Evaluating Paid Sick Leave: Social, Economic and Health Implications for Washington

In today’s economy, many families and businesses are struggling to stay afloat after years of high unemployment, stagnant earnings, and fluctuations in consumer demand. Paid sick leave standards are an important policy tool to help restore economic security for working families, while protecting public health, improving business productivity, supporting families caring for elders, and boosting children’s success in school.

Except in a few localities, most American workers are not protected by minimum paid leave standards. Currently four in ten private sector workers get no paid sick leave – including many restaurant, grocery, and health care workers who are on the front lines of food safety and public health.

Washington state is home to nearly 3 million jobs. Of those, more than 2.2 million are outside the City of Seattle and not covered by the city’s paid sick and safe leave ordinance. In the absence of a statewide standard, an estimated 1 million jobs in Washington do not offer paid sick leave, including 134,000 in accommodation and food service, 145,000 in retail, and 85,000 in health services.

Decades of research by academicians and human resources professionals have found that companies benefit from providing paid leave, because of the resulting increases in employee morale and productivity, and decreases in absenteeism and turnover. San Francisco was the first U.S. city to adopt a universal standard for paid sick leave through a 2006 citizen initiative. Since enacted in early in 2007, San Francisco’s job market has been stronger than in the state of California as a whole, and compares favorably with the surrounding counties.

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