New law requires paid sick leave at Seattle businesses

SEATTLE - A new law that took effect Saturday means Seattle is now one of the few cities in the nation requiring businesses to offer paid sick leave to workers.

Before the law started moving forward, some local companies were worried about how it might affect them financially. But so far, some business owners are seeing the added costs as a benefit too.

One of them is Makini Howell, who just opened up another of her Plum Restaurants in the Seattle Center Armory.

"Everyone that works here is a foundation of keeping our business alive," says Howell.

The new law requires businesses with five to 49 employees to provide a minimum of five paid sick days per year. Larger companies must offer nine days.

Howell says she has been on board with the law even before it was passed.

"I wanted to create an environment where people felt welcome and they felt secure calling out - if it's domestic violence, if it's sickness, whatever it is - you can call out, and you'll have your job," she says. "So I didn't see it as a pitfall. I saw it as a way to make people feel welcome."

But others had fears it would be costly, especially for small businesses. Howell believes businesses that are still unsure about the change will soon see the difference, especially among their workers.

Jacklyn Wagner, manager of Plum Market, remembers working for another place with no paid sick leave. She says she was afraid to ask for legitimate time off.

"It was definitely a really nerve-wracking way to live your life," she says. "You'd be like, 'Oh, I got sick, something happened, my car broke down, but I'm going to get in trouble, and it doesn't matter."

So far, Howell says her workers appreciate the new law. She says it's a no-brainer - to offer another benefit to her employees and keep them happy.

"And I think if you do good things, good things sort of domino," she laughs.

Some say there's the added benefit of letting a sick person stay home - rather than forcing them in and potentially getting others sick, too.
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