In Philadelphia, a Healthy Workforce and a Healthy Business Environment Go Together
The human reasons to ensure that all working Philadelphians are able to care for themselves and their ill loved ones are tremendously compelling.
The public health rationale for enabling people with contagious diseases to stay home and avoid spreading it is impeccable.
But in an era of high unemployment, good policymaking also requires that we answer another question: how would guaranteeing all working people in Philadelphia the right to earn paid sick leave impact the city’s economy?
To answer this question, I conducted a study analyzing Philadelphians’ access to paid sick leave and projecting the impact of a paid sick leave guarantee on Philadelphia’s economy. I found that guaranteeing paid sick leave will not impact employment or business growth in Philadelphia. In the three years since San Francisco implemented its paid sick leave law, job growth there has consistently been higher than in neighboring counties without such a law, despite the nation’s deep recession.
Indeed, a growing body of research finds little evidence to support the argument that that job growth or business growth has been harmed by establishing paid sick leave as a standard. Instead, the policy provides a meaningful benefit to workers while improving public health and workplace productivity.
In places where paid sick leave has been implemented, there is a significant divergence between predictions of economic doom beforehand and the actual impact. For example, in San Francisco the restaurant industry trade group initially asserted that the policy would substantially increase small business costs and discourage employment. Yet now that the policy has been in place for a number of years, the Golden Gate Restaurant Association calls the law “successful” and “the best public policy for the least cost,” acknowledging that employees have not abused paid sick leave.
A top official at the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce, another original opponent to paid sick leave, admitted that “it has not been a huge issue that we have heard from our members about… I don’t think it’s quite on the minds of employers.”
In Philadelphia, opponents of earned paid sick days are once again predicting the same negative outcomes. I suggest that looking at the concrete evidence of how this policy has operated in practice is the best way to predict the impact in Philadelphia.
Amy Traub is Senior Policy Analyst in the Economic Opportunity Program at Dēmos.