New Study Shows Paid Sick Leave Has No Effect on Business Costs

if-you-have-tobring-a-box-of-tissues-to-workyou-shouldprobablystay-home

As Washington state prepares to vote on Initiative 1433, which if passed would raise the state  minimum wage and enact paid sick and safe leave for all workers, we’ll likely hear the usual threats from business owners: providing sick leave for their employees will allegedly force them to cut benefits, hours, or even jobs. We heard these complaints five years ago from business owners before Seattle adopted its own sick leave law. We see this kind of thing whenever the people propose any kind of law that might benefit workers, of course: business owners loudly argue that their workers will suffer most of all, and they threaten total economic collapse.

But we now have a few years of data from cities that have enacted paid sick leave laws, so we can put those scary claims to the test. And guess what? As Slate’s Henry Grabar says, a New York City study shows that paid sick leave has pretty much no effect on business. Here’s the nut of it:

Their survey of 350 random New York businesses, stratified to appropriately represent different firm sizes, says: 85 percent of employers reported the law had no effect on business costs, 91 percent reported no reduction in hiring, 94 percent reported no effect on business productivity, and 96 percent reported no change in customer service.

That jibes with findings from other cities published by the U.S. Department of Labor in October. San Francisco has outperformed surrounding counties in job growth since the passage of its policy in 2007. Likewise, analyses of Seattle and Washington, D.C., found negligible impacts on hiring and business location. A ton of research has also shown that flexible leave policies have a positive effect on worker productivity, happiness, and health.

Huh. It’s almost as though business owners just don’t want to change because humans are uncomfortable with new things and would prefer to stick with the proven status quo, isn’t it?

But the thing is, Washington workers can’t afford to keep things the way they are. Sick and safe leave provides workers with a necessary sense of security that enables them to take care of themselves and their families without fear of missing a rent or car payment. And when food service and retail workers can stay home sick, that helps staunch the spread of disease, which is better for everyone in this state.

We made a whole podcast about the importance of paid sick leave; you should listen to it, and then you should vote yes on Initiative 1433 this November. You can be confident that when you vote for 1433 you’re not voting against business; you’re voting for a smart law that will improve life for everyone.

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Paul Constant
Paul Constant has written about politics, books, and film for Newsweek, The Progressive, the Utne Reader, and alternative weeklies around the country.