Chamber responds to Council Committee vote on mandatory sick leave

Posted August 10, 2011 by Christina Donegan

Following today's vote by the Seattle City Council's Housing, Human Services, Health and Culture Committee to forward legislation to the full Council requiring employers in Seattle to provide paid sick leave, the Chamber called for caution and expressed points of concern with the legislation.

“With the rapid drop in the Dow, a rekindling of concern over the world economy, and deeper cuts in the state budget, we must be mindful that Seattle employers are not immune to larger economic forces. We must be very, very careful and balanced when considering mandates that increase costs and regulations on our employers at this time,” said George Allen, the Chamber’s senior vice president of government relations.

Allen explained that employers agree with the principle that employees should be able to care for themselves or loved ones without undue financial hardship. Many of them provide benefits to this effect. However, Allen urged careful consideration of the consequences—unintended or otherwise—before enacting a mandate.

Chief among the Chamber’s suggestions are reducing the number of mandated accrual days so they are more in line with average annual use; giving credit to employers for providing alternative benefits that keep employees healthy and able to care for themselves; recognizing shift swapping for all employers; giving credit for “hours banking” to be used by employees with more serious illnesses; handling employee complaints administratively as opposed to the courts; and exempting small businesses and those faced with closure due to financial stress.

“We’ve been participating in several stakeholder groups on this issue. While discussions thus far have been beneficial, there’s considerably more to be discussed and understood, including some of the options outlined above. We stand ready to work with all Councilmembers to incorporate those outcomes into any legislation that moves forward,” Allen concluded.

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