Economy

Oregon Becomes Fourth State To Pass Law Guaranteeing Paid Sick Days

CREDIT: Doug Geisler, Flickr

On Friday, Oregon’s state House passed a bill that would require most employers to offer five days of paid sick leave to their employees. If the governor signs it into law as advocates believe she will, it will be the fourth state in the country with such a requirement.

Oregon’s bill applies to businesses with 10 or more employees and allows workers to accrue an hour of sick time for every 30 they work. The leave could be used to care for a worker herself, a family member, or donate it to a coworker. An estimated 47 percent of workers in the state don’t have access to paid sick days, including more than 70 percent of low-wage workers.

After the bill passed, Jeff Anderson, chair of the Oregon Working Families Party and Secretary Treasurer for UFCW 555, said, “This has been a long time in the making, and it’s a big win for the Working Families Party, for my union, and for working families across the state.”

The bill comes after Portland passed its own requirement in 2013 and Eugene passed one last year. City and state laws across the country have picked up momentum in the past couple of years, with 2014 holding the record at 11 passed. Before Oregon’s vote, three others had been passed this year.

paid-sickleave-infographic

CREDIT: Dylan Petrohilos, ThinkProgress

There is no countrywide requirement that employees have access to paid sick leave, however, unlike all other developed countries. That leaves about 40 percent of the workforce without the ability to take a paid day off if they get sick. And among those who do get the benefit, the trend has been toward offering fewer days.

Nationwide solutions have been proposed, however. President Obama called for a national paid sick leave bill in his most recent State of the Union address, and Congressional Democrats took him up on it to re-introduce legislation in February. But so far it hasn’t gained traction.

Those places that have laws in place have acted as testing grounds for whether requiring paid sick leave hurts or helps local businesses. And so far the evidence all points to either no effect or a boost. New data from Connecticut shows that since its law took effect in 2012, job growth in leisure and hospitality, the industries most impacted by it, has been stronger than it was in previous years. A survey of the state’s employers also confirmed that the majority said their costs hadn’t changed while some even saw benefits from improved morale and increased productivity.

Similar trends have held in other places. In San Francisco, which was the first to pass a law, employment and business growth increased and a majority of the city’s businesses support it. Seattle also saw stronger job growth the year after its policy took effect and employers support the law there as well. The law in Washington, D.C. hasn’t discouraged businesses to open or encouraged them to relocate. Many employers in Jersey City who changed their sick leave policies after the city’s law went into effect report benefits like increased productivity or lower turnover.