Economy

Philadelphia Joins The Growing Ranks Of Cities Requiring Paid Sick Days

CREDIT: AP/Cliff Owen

Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter (D)

On Thursday, the Philadelphia City Council passed paid sick days, and Mayor Michael Nutter (D) was expected to sign it into law at a ceremony afterward.

The new law will require employers with 10 or more employees to allow their full-time and part-time workers to accrue at least five days of paid sick leave a year. Those at smaller businesses will be able to accrue five days of unpaid leave. The leave can be used to take a day off if an employee gets sick or to care for her sick family members, as well as by domestic violence victims who need time to seek treatment or counseling. As of 2013, about 182,000 workers in the city had no access to paid sick days, about 123,900 of whom didn’t have access to any other kind of paid time off either.

Thursday’s passage makes Philadelphia the 17th city in the country to require paid sick leave, and three states — California, Connecticut, and Massachusetts — have also passed these laws. Last year saw a huge uptick in activity, with 11 laws passed.

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CREDIT: Dylan Petrohilos/ThinkProgress

Philadelphia is the second place to pass such a law this year, following Tacoma, WA. Both come after President Obama called on cities and states to pass laws while he pushes Congress to pass a national bill. Democratic Congresspeople also heeded that call on Thursday, re-introducing the Healthy Families Act, which would give American workers the ability to earn up to seven paid sick days a year. But past iterations of the bill haven’t moved forward. The United States is the only developed country without a national law guaranteeing paid sick leave. Nearly 40 percent of Americans don’t have access to paid time off for illness.

The fight for Philadelphia’s law has been long. The City Council has twice passed a bill only to have Mayor Nutter veto it.

An analysis of the 2013 version, which allowed employees at companies with six to 19 workers to earn four days a year and those at bigger ones to earn seven days, found that it would come with net savings for the city’s businesses totaling $574,252. That’s because the savings from reduced turnover and flu absences would outweigh the administrative costs. Despite the concern from business that paid sick leave requirements will be too costly, the evidence from places that already have them backs up the idea that they won’t be harmful. The vast majority of employers have come to support these laws, while they haven’t hurt local economies and, in fact, many cities have outperformed after their laws were enacted.