Seattle’s Sick & Safe Leave Ordinance Went into Effect September 1st

The Seattle Sick & Safe Leave ordinance went into effect September 1, 2012. The ordinance requires businesses with employees working in the City of Seattle to provide a certain level of paid time off that can be used for sick and safe leave purposes. The ordinance applies to companies with five or more employees and has very clear guidelines for employers to follow. All companies with employees working within the City of Seattle are impacted regardless of where the company is physically located. This can include companies with telecommuting employees who live in the City of Seattle as well as companies with employees who perform any work within the city for 240 hours per year or more. Employers who offer PTO rather than separate sick leave and vacation time will also need to pay special attention to the requirements of the ordinance for companies who offer PTO. In some cases it may make more business sense to switch to a system of offering sick and vacation leave.

If you are not already prepared we recommend doing the following right now:

  1. Research the ordinance. Although it is long and can be confusing, it is a good idea to become familiar with the details. Make sure you understand the requirements and how they impact your company based on the tier you fit into. You can do this by reading the ordinance, attending an information session or consulting an attorney or other individual who is familiar with both the ordinance and your company.
  2. Compare the requirements of the ordinance to your company’s current policies regarding sick and safe leave. This will include rate of accrual as well as reasons to use and documentation requirements. Additionally, it is probably a good idea to define the terms such as “preventive care” and “family member” for your employees.
  3. Make the changes to your policies needed to ensure that you remain compliant with the new regulations.
  4. Communicate the new information in the ordinance as well as any changes to your current policies to your staff in advance. Allow them the opportunity to ask questions. The ordinance requires that you notify your employees of their rights. We believe you will be better served by crafting your own message than by allowing the city to dictate how you communicate the information.
  5. Ensure your tracking and reporting systems are sufficient so that you can meet the requirements of the ordinance to track and retain records and provide regular updates to your employees.
    Need more information?

Our recent NW HR Best Practices Roundtable offered members the opportunity to discuss the new requirements. It was a lively discussion with Katheryn Bradley who made herself available to answer questions about the ordinance. The materials from the meeting and Jennifer Olsen’s recent interview with Katheryn are available on the Resourceful HR website.

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