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Study: Paid Sick Leave in WA Serves Up Bennies Beyond Safer Food

May 11, 2011

SEATTLE - Staying home from a job when ill isn't always possible for the four-in-10 Seattle workers who have no paid sick leave. A new study looks at the benefits of a proposal to require employers to provide paid sick leave for all workers, including those in food service, retail and health care.

Marian Macapinlac, who works at a grocery store coffee shop, says it's hard when forced to choose between going to work sick or losing pay.

"If people had the opportunity to use sick-pay days, they don't have to choose between making money and taking care of themselves and getting better. People who come in when they're sick end up spreading their sickness all over the place. It goes to their customers, it goes to their co-workers."

The study, released by the Seattle Coalition for a Healthy Workforce, found that while food safety and public health are at the center of the debate, providing paid sick leave would also improve children's health and provide support for victims of domestic violence, as well as reducing business costs through lower turnover rates and increased productivity and morale.

The idea is opposed by many businesses, who claim it would be a costly measure that would ultimately be passed on to consumers.

Seattle restaurant owner Makini Howell says her employees are her business, and that she supports paid sick leave because it improves employee morale. What equates to about one paid sick day a year costs much less than losing an employee, she says.

"If you continue to hemorrhage employees, you're never going to quite build your brand, so it makes sense to support your people and they'll support you - which thereby will gain you market share, which will make you more money than skimping on paid sick days."

Howell will be one of the business owners speaking tonight at a community forum to discuss the benefits of implementing a citywide standard for paid sick days. The forum will be held from 5 to 7 p.m. at University Christian Church, 4731 15th Ave NE.

The study is online at eoionline.org.

Lori Abbott, Public News Service - WA