REPORT: DC’s Paid Sick Leave Law Had No Negative Effect On Businesses

A new audit of Washington, DC’s paid sick leave law finds that it didn’t discourage business owners from basing their businesses in the city, nor did it encourage them to move to another location, as detractors had warned could happen.

The Office of the District of Columbia Auditor interviewed business owners from when the law was enacted in 2008 until November 2012. It found that 87.5 percent of the respondents said the law would not cause them to move their businesses from DC.

The audit also found that the share of businesses providing paid sick days has grown since the law was enacted. In 2007, before it was passed, half of the respondents didn’t provide paid leave. As of 2012, nearly 70 percent do.

DC enacted the Accrued Sick and Safe Leave Act in 2008 to require that employers provide paid sick days to care for themselves or family members as well as to take absences associated with domestic violence. The act applies only to full-time and part-time workers and exempts some food service and healthcare workers as well as students working less than 25 hours at their colleges or universities.


Opponents of the bill initially warned that the additional costs of implementing the law could make businesses seek out places just outside of DC’s borders without such requirements. “Smaller businesses operate on a tighter budget due to economies of scale, and may be unable to survive the additional costs that they would be subject to under this bill,” according to a report prepared for the DC Chamber of Commerce by students at George Washington University. The audit dispels these fears.

Paid sick leave policies have been enacted in five other cities as well as the state of Connecticut. Other research has shown that the policies in places such as San Francisco and Connecticut haven’t been harmful to businesses and have even boosted productivity and profits. These policies can actually boost businesses’ bottom lines.

Yet 40 percent of private sector workers around the country and 80 percent of low-income workers still don’t have access to paid sick days.