Last night, the Tacoma City Council chose to push forward on mandatory paid sick leave with a vote of 8-0. The final reading will take place Jan. 27.

The ordinance would require businesses to give workers at least three days of paid sick leave a year, accrued at the rate of one hour per 40 hours worked. Businesses are allowed to “front load” hours, meaning that employees do not have to wait six months for their full three days. For employers, this means they don't have to waste time on tracking how many sick leave hours employees have been accruing.

“The reason we brought this forward is because we know there are people in this community who do not have sick leave,” said Mayor Marilyn Strickland. “They are typically the people who are feeding us, taking care of our elders, taking care of our children and cleaning up after us. Those are the people who don't have this type of access and we want to make sure there's something we can do. But we have to be sensible, practical and reasonable.”

An amendment to allow carry over of sick leave hours made by Strickland was passed 6-0 (two abstained). The amendment would allow employees to carry over up to 24 hours of unused sick time to the following year. Employees then could use no more than 40 hours, or five days, of sick leave in the next year.

“We heard a lot of testimony about three days not being enough, but at the same time we hear people acknowledging that they may not use three days,” Strickland said. 

The chamber was crowded and saw testimony from 35 people. Most were in favor of city-mandated paid sick leave. Some wanted more days of sick leave and a few small business owners expressed concerns over the cost and record keeping burdens.

According to research done by city staff, enforcement of mandatory paid sick leave could cost the city between $400,000 and $825,000 over the next two years.

“There will be financial impact to businesses. That's a fact,” Strickland said, acknowledging concerns addressed by business owners. “If you do the math for one small business … it's $240  per year per employee at minimum wage, more or less, not counting all the other fees they have to pay.”