How Paid Sick Days Are Benefiting This City’s Businesses

CREDIT: AP/Mel Evans

Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop (center)

At the end of 2013, Jersey City became the sixth city in the country to pass a paid sick leave requirement, which went into effect in January of 2014. Since then, the city’s employers report they’ve experienced a variety of benefits, according to a study from the Center for Women and Work at Rutgers University.

Researchers polled 289 employers in the city at the beginning of this year. Of the businesses that changed their sick leave policies after the law was enacted, more than 40 percent reported seeing a benefit: a third saw an improvement in job applicants, nearly 32 percent saw increased productivity, and just under 10 percent saw a drop in turnover. Turnover in particular can be very expensive, costing as much as 20 percent of a worker’s salary to replace him. “Though the short time span since the adoption of the policy means that the effects of the law have not yet been fully realized, even at year one, many benefits are evident,” the study’s authors write.

Meanwhile, 8 percent said fewer sick employees were showing up at work. Paid sick leave has been show to reduce the share of workers who go to work sick and therefore cut down on flu transmissions.

In a press release heralding the findings, Mayor Steven Fulop said, “Not only has this legislation not hurt businesses, the exact opposite has been the case with employers reporting less turnover, more productive employees and a healthier and happier workforce.”

Employees have also seen an impact that may wind up helping employers. Of those who said they had access to more sick days after the law went into place, about 72 percent said they were more satisfied with their jobs.

The law hasn’t been complicated for businesses to deal with, either. More than 85 percent said it was easy to understand, while 80 percent are in compliance. Even 88 percent of employers who aren’t required to offer paid sick leave — those with nine or fewer employees — are offering it anyway.

Today, 17 other cities and three states have passed paid sick days requirements. Businesses’ experience in other places mirrors what has happened in Jersey City. In San Francisco, a majority of employers say they support the law while business and job growth haven’t been harmed. Job growth was actually stronger in Seattle after its policy went into effect, and its employers support it. And Washington, D.C.’s law hasn’t pushed business owners to move of rethink opening up in the city.

Yet even with the fast pace of progress for these policies, the U.S. remains the only developed country without a national requirement, leaving 40 percent of workers without access to a paid day off it they or their family members get sick.