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Regulation Nation: Seattle Adopts Paid Sick Leave Mandate

In Seattle, the city council just passed a bill to require paid sick leave at all companies with at least five workers. Dan Springer reports that Seattle now joins San Francisco, Washington DC, and the state of Connecticut in requiring sick pay. Residents in Denver will vote on the issue in November.

Five days is the minimum requirement of sick days, but businesses with 250 employees have to give

nine paid sick days a year. This new unfunded regulation comes at a time when Seattle is starting to see more vacant buildings and the unemployment is at the national average of 9.1%.

Seattle’s mayor recently said he wanted to do away with costly red tape regulations, but he supports sick pay and will sign it. Small business owners who are just barely hanging on may have to lay off some workers, others will most certainly look at other benefits that they will have to cut.

Supporters of the mandate say it is a public health issue and it will improve worker performance. An ice cream shop owner in Seattle started offering her workers sick pay in April and since then the sixty employees have taken a total combination of 25 hours of sick leave. San Francisco workers take an average of about three sick days a year. The small business owner explains, “My employees aren’t going to abuse the policy because they appreciate the benefit and they all know collectively that to keep benefits and to keep good jobs, they need to treat the company and me with as much respect as I’m treating them.”

The Seattle ordinance calls for fines up to $10,000 for businesses that don’t comply. However, unions can opt out of the mandate using sick pay as a bargaining chip to get things they really want like higher pay and job security.

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