A study released today by the University of Washington shows that a majority of Seattle employers were noncompliant with the city's Paid Sick Leave ordinance when the progressive law went into effect last September. The law, which applies to over 11,000 local employers, most of whom have fewer than 50 employees, was designed to discourage employees from working while sick by not monetarily penalizing them for missing work.
The study (.pdf), which randomly sampled 1,400 employers throughout the city, found that "at or near the time the ordinance went into effect, over two-thirds of Seattle employers were noncompliant or in only partial compliance."
Over a quarter [27.1 percent] offer neither paid sick leave nor undesignated paid time off to any employee. The majority [65.4 percent] do not offer paid sick time or paid time off to part-time employees, and only a small minority (3.0) extend such paid leave to temporary employees as required under the Ordinance.
Meanwhile, four out of ten employers reported that employees "sometimes work" while sick and that working while sick is more common, not less, in workplaces that offer paid time off.
Of course, this all comes from the mouths of employers, who have a vested financial interest in downplaying and dismissing the efficacy of the ordinance. According to employers, sick employees most typically stay home, "regardless of whether paid leave is offered," the survey notes. Which, again, might just be a rationalization for why paid sick leave isn't necessary (the survey also notes that "paid leave may increase employees' earnings and employers' labor costs").
This is just a baseline survey—the university plans on releasing more surveys tracking the effectiveness of the ordinance over the next year (including surveys of employees). At this point, the study notes that "whether sick- or safe-related absenteeism will increase is unclear."
What is clear is that passing this ordinance was just the first of many hurdles in empowering employees to take time off when they need it. What's necessary now is a ton of employer outreach and, perhaps, a healthy dose of public shaming. The report notes that "Among employers who know about the Ordinance and do not currently offer paid leave, only four in ten plan to change their policies."