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Mandatory paid sick leave: How has it worked in San Francisco?

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San Francisco’s ordinance requires employers with employees who work in San Francisco – regardless of where the company has its headquarters – to provide them with one hour of sick time for every 30 hours worked. Milwaukee and Washington, D.C., have passed similar legislation requiring most employers to require a minimum number of paid sick leave days.

“A lot of small business owners were really freaked out when this first went into effect, especially smaller retail stores and restaurants,” recalls Sam Mogannam, owner of Bi-Rite Market, who employs 110 workers at two locations. He says many restaurants passed the extra costs right on to consumers with $2 to $5 service charges or 2 to 3 percent price increases. “I don’t hear too many griping about it any longer,” he says.

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.

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.
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