Date: July 9th, 2012
Categories: Employment

Earlier this year Seattle became the third city in the country to require employers to provide paid sick leave and “safe” leave. Though the new law will exempt employers with less than 4 full-time employees and businesses less than 2 years old, it is sure to have a great impact on businesses when it takes effect on September 1st. Every company with more than four full-time employees, at least one of whom performs work in Seattle, is covered by the new controversial regulations.

Since the new law takes effect on September 1st, employers have no time to spare in reviewing, revising, and instituting new leave policies. Penalties will be steep and it is expected the City of Seattle will waste no time in enforcing the new law.

A basic summary of the new law is provided below. For an in depth discussion, please join me for a free executive briefing and breakfast on Thursday, July 26, at 7:30 am at the Columbia Tower 40th floor Conference Center.

Which Employees are Covered and How Does Paid Time Accrue?

All employees who work in Seattle are covered. This includes part-time, seasonal and temporary employees. For businesses not based in Seattle, their employees who work at least 240 hours per year in Seattle are entitled to the paid leave.

Employees do not start out with the total allotment of paid leave, but accrue it at a rate of one hour of leave for every 30 or 40 hours of work, depending on which “tier” the employer is in. Employees may roll over their paid leave into a new calendar year, but they are not entitled to cash out unused paid time at separation from employment.

How Much Leave Must You Provide?

The amount of paid time an employer must offer employees depends how many full-time employees, or Full-Time Equivalents (FTEs), an employer has. Businesses with five to 49 FTEs must provide a minimum of five days of paid sick leave (40 hours) per year. These are “Tier One” businesses under the law. Companies with 50 to 249 FTEs must provide seven days of paid sick leave (56 hours), and those with more than 250 FTEs must provide nine days (72 hours) per year. These are “Tier Two” and “Tier Three” businesses, respectively. In calculating the number of FTEs, businesses must include ALL employees, not just those working in Seattle. Thus, this law will affect national and international companies, just as it will affect those in the greater Seattle area.

When May an Employee Use Their Paid Time?

The employee’s bank of time may be used for two main purposes: (1) sick leave and (2) “safe” leave. Sick leave involves either an employee’s own illness or medical care, or time taken to assist with a family member’s illness or medical care. Safe leave involves an employee’s absence due to a business closure caused by a public hazard, a school closure caused by a public hazard that affects the employee’s child, or domestic violence affecting either the employee, a member of the employee’s family or household, or a person with whom the employee has a current or former dating relationship. The definition for “safe” time largely comes from Washington’s current domestic violence laws.

You Already Offer Paid Leave—Must You Do Something More?

Employers who already offer paid leave do not need to provide additional leave, so long as they offer at least the amount of time required by the law, based on their FTEs. Employers will need to start tracking and reporting time in accordance with the law, and reporting leave accrual and balances to their employees on a regular basis (such as on their pay stub). Further, Employers will have to allow employees to use their leave for the same purposes as described in the law.

Of course, there are many steps that a company will need to take to ensure compliance with the new leave law. Given that every company is different, existing policies and employment manuals should be reviewed and updated to ensure compliance.

As noted above, this is intended to be only a summary of Seattle’s new paid leave law. For a more in-depth analysis of the law, and practical tips to guide your business, please join me for an executive breakfast on July 26. The details are listed below.

Seattle’s Sick/Safe Leave Law: Are You in Compliance?

A FREE Executive Breakfast Briefing
Thursday, July 26, 2012

7:30 – 9:00 am

Columbia Center 40th Floor Conference Room
701 Fifth Avenue, Seattle

To register click here.

For questions contact Annie Lombroia