Sick-leave mandates can help low-wage workers work more hours

Father checks sick daughters' temperature in bed

Guaranteed paid sick leave policies can lead to low-wage workers working more hours, a new Upjohn Institute policy brief suggests. Researchers Hilary Wething and Meredith Slopen found that Seattle’s Paid Sick and Safety Time policy, passed in 2012, helped individuals increase their paid time by nearly 20 hours per year.

The research was supported by an Upjohn Institute Early Career Research Award, one of several over the years focusing on the effects of paid sick leave mandates.

The researchers found no evidence of employment loss associated with the policy, suggesting that the employees gaining hours weren’t doing so at the expense of others losing their jobs. For employers with more than 50 full-time employees, they found, the policy reduced turnover 10 percent.

Policies that offer paid leave may encourage employees to stick with an employer, knowing that their job is protected should they ever need to take time off to care for themselves or a family member, the researchers conclude.

Taking on more hours can help employees in more ways than by increasing their income, Wething and Slopen write, especially if it helps them meet eligibility thresholds for benefits such as employer-supported health insurance and paid family leave.

Other Upjohn Institute research papers on sick leave policies supported by Early Career Research Awards:

Labor Market Effects of U.S. Sick Pay Mandates,” by Stefan Pichler and Nicholas R. Ziebarth

The Effect of Paid Sick Leave Mandates on Access to Paid Leave and Work Absences,” by Kevin Callison and Michael F. Pesko

The Pros and Cons of Sick Pay Schemes: Testing for Contagious Presenteeism and Shirking Behavior,” by Pichler and Ziebarth


The case for mandating paid sick leave in Minneapolis” opinion piece from Ziebarth and Aaron Sojourner.