Minimum paid sick days law in San Francisco: Better for business, healthier for workers

San Francisco’s Paid Sick Leave Ordinance: Outcomes for Employers and Em ployees

A new report from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) examines the effects of San Francisco’s paid sick days law and finds positive benefits of the policy for employers and employees alike.

Passed in 2007, the law covers 17% of San Francisco workforce, or about 59,000 workers. It allows any part- or full-time employee working in the City of San Francisco – regardless of where the employer is based – to earn 1 hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked.

Today, more than half of covered employees report some benefit due to the law, and one out of four workers reported that they were better able to care for their own and their families’ health. And while some local business leaders predicted the law would negatively impact San Francisco’s business climate, those fears were apparently unfounded.

“San Francisco?s policy helped parents, workers with chronic diseases, low-wage workers, and others, with minimal impact on employers,” said Vicky Lovell, former IWPR Acting Director of Research and co-author on the report. “The Paid Sick Leave Ordinance serves as a model for the rest of the country.”

The IWPR study surveyed over 700 employers and nearly 1,200 workers, and found 2 out of 3 employers supported the law. One local business owner put it this way: “The law makes sense and creates a better, less stressful work environment,” said Sam Mogannam, owner of Bi-Rite Market in San Francisco. “We even took it a step further and pay out any time accrued when an employee leaves our organization, not required under the current law which is ‘use it or lose it.'”

The report shows fears about employees abusing the new benefit were  largely unfounded, and most workers actually used less than their maximum allotment of paid sick days. The law may also help bring down business costs by increasing employee retention and lowering turnover costs; research shows employees are happier and more productive when they have access to paid sick days.

The legislation has also had public health benefits: One out of eight workers with public contact in workplaces – such as restaurants and retail establishments – reported that the paid sick days made it less likely for them to come to work when sick.

Overall, San Francisco’s paid sick days ordinance is functioning well – for business and workers – and is a model for nation.

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Posted in A Fair Deal at Work, Check, Paid Sick Days


  1. Winslow P. Kelpfroth says:

    I don’t follow the reasoning in this article. If paid sick leave is such a boon to both employers and employees alike, there should be no need for a legislative mandate.

    • Well, let’s think through your reasoning here. If people will do the right thing because it is the right thing to do, then by that logic there is no need for employment standards of any kind – no laws requiring people be paid overtime for working more than 40 hours per week, no laws prohibiting putting young children to work, no laws specifying the minimum pay per hour, etc.

      But of course, most Americans believe that those kinds of basic standards are important, and for good reason – we once had an economy without those standards, and it wasn’t a very nice place to work, let alone a good place to raise a family.

      The lack of a minimum paid sick days standard has demonstrably negative effects on our businesses, our families, and our health. The report referenced in this post simply documents the fact that ensuring people can earn paid sick days on the job actually makes our economy more humane, rational, and profitable for everyone concerned.

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