Time is Running Out! Your Checklist to Prepare for Seattle’s New Sick/Safe Leave Ordinance

Starting September 1, 2012, all businesses with employees who perform work in the Seattle city limits must comply with the Seattle Sick/Safe Leave Ordinance.  If you haven’t reviewed your current sick leave policy to ensure it complies, or created a policy if necessary, now is the time.   Here are some additional steps you should take now, and after September 1, to ensure compliance with the ordinance.   To do now!

  1. Waiting period:  Decide whether you will require new employees to wait 180 days before they can use accrued sick/safe leave.  Revise your policy or handbook accordingly and distribute the policy to employees.
  2. Shift swapping:  Decide whether you will use the shift-swapping provision of the ordinance.  The ordinance requires mutual consent of the employer and the employee for a shift swap.  Create a written document to be signed by the employee and his or her manager or supervisor each time a shift swap deducts from an employee’s bank of paid sick/safe leave.
  3. Proof of illness:  Decide whether you will request documentation of an illness for leave lasting more than three days.  Create a standard form or letter for use in requesting such documentation.
  4. Advance notice of leave:  Determine how much advance notice an employee must provide when taking sick/safe leave under the ordinance, and create or reinforce your policies regarding same.  Keep in mind that any rules regarding advance notice must comply with the ordinance and cannot interfere with the purpose of the leave.
  5. Recordkeeping:  Review your centralized documentation and record-keeping system to ensure that it complies with the ordinance’s requirements.  For example, do you have the capacity to report accrued and unused leave to each employee?  Do you have a system for keeping records of hours worked in Seattle, leave used by each employee, and the reason for leave?  Such records must be maintained for at least two years.

To do beginning September 1, 2012

  1. Inform your employees:  The ordinance requires that employers inform employees of their rights under the ordinance.  Meet this requirement by posting a notice – in either physical or electronic form – to all Seattle employees.  Create your own, or use the poster prepared by the Office for Civil Rights.
  2. Accrue sick/safe leave for employees:  It starts now!  For employers with 5 or more employees, begin accruing paid sick/safe leave for all employees who perform work in Seattle, in accordance with the accrual rates set forth in the Ordinance.
  3. Track and retain records:  Track and retain records of each employee’s actual hours worked in Seattle, each employee’s accrued leave, and each employee’s used paid leave.
  4. Notify employees of accrued and used leave:  Provide each employee with written notification each time wages are paid that summarizes the amount of paid leave available for use as sick/safe time.
  5. Provide manager training:  Ensure your supervisors and managers know how to recognize a request for leave under the ordinance and the permissible reasons for leave by providing mandatory training on the ordinance.  Require supervisors and managers to sign in, and maintain proof of attendance in the manager’s personnel file.  (Training should begin now and be ongoing.)
  6. Provide employee training:  Even if your employees are not entitled to leave under the ordinance, they’ve likely heard about it!  Provide training for employees on permissible uses for leave under the eligibility for leave, and the consequences of abuse.  (Training should begin now and be ongoing.)