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Op-Ed: Paid sick days are good for business, community

September 25, 2013

By DIANE INMAN — via the Tacoma News Tribune

Two Tacoma City Council members, Anders Ibsen and Ryan Mello, are proposing a city ordinance to ensure that all people working in Tacoma can earn paid sick time. As co-owner of a local business, with more than 24 years of experience as an independent business owner, I can tell you that paid sick days are a good idea.

My business partner and I began providing paid sick days for our staff because it was the right thing to do. We were surprised and pleased to find our business running better because of this policy.

Our employees don’t use paid sick days very often. Part of the reason is that when employees are ill, they stay home to recover instead of coming to work and spreading their germs to co-workers. We know that healthy employees are more productive, alert and able to give our clients the kind of service they deserve and expect. Our high level of repeat and referral business is a direct result of that consistent, high-quality service.

Having paid sick days available isn’t just a morale boost for our employees, it also helps create an environment of respect and a culture of going the extra mile for each other. The lower turnover that results means our staff builds stronger relationships with customers and with each other. We spend far less money, time and energy hiring and training new employees.

Today, almost 40,000 people are working in Tacoma without any paid sick days. Among them: parents who can’t pick up a sick child from school, grocery workers who can’t use their paid sick days until the third day of their illness; and more than three in four restaurant workers, who have lots of regular public interaction as part of their job.

Ibsen’s and Mello’s proposal addresses this problem while allowing for the obvious differences between smaller businesses like ours, with 20 employees, and large corporations with thousands of employees. Workers would earn one hour of paid sick time per 30 hours worked – up to a limit of five days per year for businesses with fewer than 10 employees. People working for larger businesses could earn up to nine days per year.

The proposed ordinance would allow employees to use paid sick time to deal with their own illness or injury, or for preventative care; to care for an immediate family member’s illness or injury; or as “safe time” in the case of domestic abuse, sexual assault or stalking.

We are in business because it lets us do what we love. Paid sick days isn’t just smart business policy, it’s smart public policy as well. I hope the City Council will take the responsible step and move a paid sick days ordinance forward here in Tacoma.

Diane Inman is co-owner of Positive Approach Dog Training and a member of the Healthy Tacoma coalition, a group of more than 30 community organizations in support of paid sick days. Community members interested in learning more about the paid sick days ordinance can visit http://www.healthytacoma.net.

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