Washington Research Council examines paid sick leave policies

The Washington Research Council has released a podcast and policy brief examining the impacts of paid sick leave policies. The WRC concludes:

Ultimately, policies like mandatory paid sick leave limit the ability of employees and employers to determine what combination of wages and benefits is most desirable for both parties. They might result in a shift of compensation that would not be preferable for all employees.

In our research report, we noted the proliferation of employment policies being enacted or considered by local governments, including leave policies and local minimum wages. Our summary:

Washington employers and residents alike place a high priority on the equitable compensation and protection of those in the workforce. Policymakers must carefully consider wage and benefits mandates and system to ensure that such protection are maintained in a cost-effective manner so that employers can create more job opportunities for Washington citizens.

The WRC analysis is a timely contribution to the information available to legislators as they consider changes in statewide employment policy.

 

Votes expected soon on labor policy legislation: Sharp divide between chambers

The Associated Press has a good rundown on a number of labor policy issues expected to come to floor votes this week, including minimum wage, workers’ compensation, and paid sick leave. Unsurprisingly, the two chambers have sharply divided views on the proposals.

In the Democratic-controlled House, bills with strong enough backing to make passage seem likely include bills to raise the state’s minimum wage to $12 an hour, guarantee a minimum amount of sick leave and forbid retaliation over complaints of owed wages. Across the Rotunda in the Senate, a coalition of mostly Republicans holds power and has passed out of committee bills that would aid challenges to labor unions, restructure workers’ compensation and create a tier of legal wages for teenagers below the state’s official minimum hourly pay.

So far, leaders on each side have spoken as if they are unwilling to bend to the proposals being considered by the other, which creates the possibility the opposing ideologies in play could mostly cancel out.

The article includes comments from Opportunity Washington partner, AWB.

“If they want to see anything come out of the other side, they’re going to have to work to compromise on common ground on some things,” said Bob Battles, general counsel and government affairs director for the Association of Washington Business.

…”You continue to put costs on top of small business owners, and eventually the small businesses can’t continue to survive,” Battles said. “We’re going to push our small business folks out of the market. They operate on such tight margins already.”

The Washington Research Council recently published a policy brief, The Long-Lasting, Negative Consequences of the Minimum Wage, reviewing the economic literature on minimum wage increases. (Also discussed in this WRC podcast.)
 
In our research report, Opportunity Washington reviewed the importance of enacting and maintaining policies that stimulate private sector investment and job creation. With respect to workers compensation, we noted:
Similarly, the state has consistently had the highest workers’ compensation benefit costs in the country. In 2012, the most recent year for which data are available, benefit costs averaged $840 per covered worker, nearly twice the U.S. average of $434.9.
We suggested reforms in voluntary settlements and the definitions of occupational disease as ways to improve outcomes for workers and control costs.
 
And, regarding the minimum wage and paid sick leave, 
Washington employers and residents alike place a high priority on the equitable compensation and protection of those in the workforce. Policymakers must carefully consider wage and benefits mandates and system to ensure that such protection are maintained in a cost-effective manner so that employers can create more job opportunities for Washington citizens.
As Battles points out, there may be common ground on some of these issues. The first priority, however, must be to nurture policies that expand opportunity and prosperity. 

Legislature considers minimum wage, paid sick leave; business groups voice concern

Tuesday the Tacoma City Council passed a paid sick leave ordinance, which will go into effect in February 2016. The cities of SeaTac and Seattle have previously passed paid sick and safe leave ordinance, by initiative and council vote respectively. In Olympia, the House Labor Committee is considering a similar statewide measure:

Under House Bill 1356, employers with more than four full-time or equivalent employees would be required to grant paid sick leave to employees for medical reasons involving themselves or family members.

Additionally, the bill would require employers to grant safe leave for employees who are at threat of domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking, or in times when their workplaces or children’s schools have been closed for public health concerns.

The House committee also is considering a bill to raise the state minimum wage to $12 an hour, generating concerns from affected employers.
Representatives of grocery stores, restaurants and farms told the House Labor Committee they would lose customers if they raised their rates or prices to pay higher wages.
Others argued the proposal didn’t go far enough. (Another bill has been introduced to require triple pay for working on Thanksgiving.)
 
In our online research report, Opportunity Washington considered the effects of state and local measures to set employment policies.
In terms of wage and benefit policies, Washington has long had the nation’s highest statewide minimum wage. That has now been exceeded in multiple jurisdictions as local governments have adopted their own wage and benefit laws…
Research is mixed on the effects of incremental increases in the minimum wage,101 but large increases are clearly associated with declining job opportunities for the young and unskilled. 
We urge a focus on policies that encourage job creation and provide increased opportunities.
Washington employers and residents alike place a high priority on the equitable compensation and protection of those in the workforce. Policymakers must carefully consider wage and benefits mandates and system to ensure that such protection are maintained in a cost-effective manner so that employers can create more job opportunities for Washington citizens.