Mandatory paid sick leave: How has it worked in San Francisco?
A survey of employers and employees after the first four years of mandatory paid sick leave gives the policy high marks, saying most employers support the new benefit and that it is rarely misused.
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He says the added cost for him is about $110,000 per year, but that the staff loves the flexibility about what used to be the highly stressful situation of sick leave and vacation time. For him, that makes for a better work environment and better service.Skip to next paragraph
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A boost for morale
“It’s made a highly positive impact on staff morale. I think it’s a win/win situation for employees and employers,” he says.
Other findings include:
- Despite the availability of as many as nine sick days under the ordinance, the typical worker used only three paid sick days for the year and a quarter of the workers used zero sick days.
- More than half of San Francisco employees under the ordinance reported benefiting from it either because their employer became supportive of using the sick days, the number of sick days provided increased, or they were better able to care for themselves or family members.
- Parents with paid sick days were more than 20 percent less likely to send a child with a contagious disease to school than parents who did not have paid sick days.
“Besides being more compassionate and kind, it is definitely clear from a health perspective, that if the system gives us a work environment that is not filled with sick people, everyone is better off,” says Elizabeth Dowdell, an associate professor of nursing at Villanova University in Pennsylvania.
Winnie Chang, a 31-year-old optometrist assistant, says she has been working since she was 16 and never got paid sick leave before. “I have not heard of any employers who are not happy about it,” the optometrist assistant says.
Further study required
But Dion Lim, COO of SimplyHired.com – a job-search engine – says the findings need to be looked at more carefully before other cities and states jump to do likewise. He says the number of variables makes the issue far more complex than simply stated results can articulate.
“People need to look at the specific results for which kinds of companies reported doing better under this ordinance, which did worse, what size the companies are, how cyclical their business is, and what is the state of the overall economy,” he says. Usually, smaller companies have a harder time with this than larger companies, he notes.
“San Francisco is anomalous in many ways because of its many-tiered economy. This study is important for what it says but also for what it doesn’t say, which is that there certainly has not been a big backlash against mandated sick leave.”
Ms. Chang says that many people she knows working in San Francisco are not even aware of the policy and so don’t take advantage of it.
“There needs to be more education of what this is about and how to use it,” she says.