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DC’s Paid Sick Leave Law: IWPR Recommends Thorough Assessment of Impact on Businesses and Workers

In a new briefing paper, the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) recommends that the District of Columbia undertake a comprehensive study of the effects of the city’s paid sick leave law.
Sep 04, 2012

Washington, DC—In a new briefing paper, the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) recommends that the District of Columbia undertake a comprehensive study of the effects of the city’s paid sick leave law. An evaluation following IWPR’s recommendations could go beyond what’s required of the law and assess whether the paid sick days law had any net effect on the number of businesses or employees in the District. A thorough study would also determine whether employers are complying with the law and whether employees know of its provisions.

Prior research finds that paid sick days can help to improve worker productivity, reduce contagion in the workplace and in public, and reduce worker turnover. In March 2008, DC joined San Francisco as the second jurisdiction in the nation to enact a law requiring that employers allow workers to earn paid sick days. A February 2011 IWPR study found that two-thirds of businesses in San Francisco supported that city’s paid sick leave law.

“Enacting paid sick days legislation is an important step toward improving the well-being and economic security of workers and their families,” said Kevin Miller, Senior Research Associate with IWPR and author of the briefing paper. “No one benefits when an employee comes to work sick and spreads an illness to co-workers or customers.”

According to DC’s Accrued Sick and Safe Leave Act, the city’s Auditor is required to submit a report on the act’s impact on the private sector, specifically including two variables: compliance with the posting requirements and whether businesses are using staffing patterns to circumvent the law.

“Many DC businesses are providing paid sick days thanks to the DC law, but from our conversations with workers—from cooks to child care and medical providers—more needs to be done to ensure workers get their earned sick leave and don't come to work sick,” said Ari Weisbard, Advocacy Manager with the DC Employment Justice Center (DCEJC). “We applaud businesses like Busboys and Poets that choose to go above and beyond by giving all their workers paid sick days, even though the law has a loophole for tipped employees.”

If employers are hiring more temporary or short-term workers that may not be covered by the paid sick days law or terminating workers before they accrue paid sick leave, DC may not be realizing the full benefits of the law.

IWPR recommends that the Auditor go beyond the requirements and undertake an evaluation of the economic impact of the paid sick days law by examining published economic data and conducting surveys of both workers and employers in the city who have been affected by the law. In addition, IWPR recommends the Auditor’s report be supplemented by existing research on paid sick days.

Finally, the creation of an expert advisory committee is recommended to guide the city’s study and give easy access to top experts.

IWPR experts and the author of the briefing paper, as well as employers and employees who have been affected by DC’s Paid Sick Leave Policy are available for comment. Please contact Caroline Dobuzinskis at dobuzinskis@iwpr.org for more information.

The Institute for Women's Policy Research (IWPR) conducts rigorous research and disseminates its findings to address the needs of women and their families, promote public dialogue, and strengthen communities and societies. IWPR is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization that also works in affiliation with the women's studies, public policy, and public administration programs at The George Washington University.

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