Analysis of Seattle's Paid Sick Leave Ordinance


A mandatory paid sick leave ordinance would affect every business in the city of Seattle that does not already have an official paid sick leave employee policy. It would also affect any business that already provides paid sick leave that allows fewer days than the ordinance mandates. The ordinance would also impact any business that already provides paid time off, but does not specify that it can be used for paid sick days.

This mandate would heavily burden the service sector – food service and accommodation in particular. However, smaller businesses, regardless of industry classification, would also be impacted because smaller firms are less likely to provide benefits in the form of paid sick days.

Who already receives paid sick days? The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that nationwide 61 percent of private industry workers and 89 percent of state and local government workers have paid sick days available to them.

Employees in large businesses (more than 500 employees) are much more likely to receive paid sick days than those in smaller businesses, as are employees who work in professional, management or related occupations. The least likely to receive paid sick days are part-time workers and those who work in the food service and accommodations industries, as well as those who work in businesses with fewer than 100 employees.

Those who work full-time for state and local governments are the most likely to receive paid sick days (98 percent).

Key Findings

  1. Mandatory paid sick days could cost Seattle businesses and consumers between $30 million and $90 million a year.
  2. The lack of sick leave has not been a threat to public health. Incidents of foodborne illnesses in Washington have dropped in the last ten years without mandatory paid sick leave.
  3. Mandatory paid sick leave is likely to impact small businesses, restaurants and the hospitality industry the hardest.
  4. Employees are already protected by half-a-dozen federal and state laws mandating paid and unpaid leave provisions as well as job protection.
  5. The new sick leave ordinance would apply to current collective bargaining agreements.
  6. The city ordinance would impact employers whose employees conduct business both in and outside of city limits -- as well as out-of-city businesses that have employees working more than 80 hours inside city limits.
  7. Federal, state, county and local governments (except for the city of Seattle) are exempt.

Read or download a pdf of the full Policy Brief here.