Paid sick leave laws

Program overview

  • Paid sick leave laws require all or most employers operating within a jurisdiction to provide workers with paid time off to care for themselves or a loved one when sick.
  • Workers typically accrue a maximum of 30-40 hours in paid sick leave at a rate of an hour per week. Some jurisdictions vary caps based on employer size (i.e. companies with 14 or fewer employees can cap paid sick hours at 24 instead of 40).
  • Enforcement of paid sick leave laws, like many worker protection laws, tends to be complaint-driven. In most cases, workers must file a complaint and participate in an investigation with the city’s designated enforcement agency. However, the process of filing a complaint can result in a private settlement.
  • Enforcement agencies are typically housed within a city executive office (such as the Pittsburgh Mayor’s Office of Equity or Philadelphia Mayor’s Office of Labor).

Evidence and impacts


Ranked as having “some evidence” by County Health Ranking and Roadmaps, indicating that further research is needed to confirm effects. These strategies have been tested more than once and results trend positive overall.

  • Increased job stability, productivity, and morale among some workers; decreased turnover
  • Increased use of preventative health care services (including cancer screenings, vaccinations, and dental care)
  • Limited or no impact on employment and wages

Best practices in implementation

  • Invest significant resources in enforcement staff capacity. A sick leave law’s impact often hinges on the city’s ability to quickly process and investigate claims, help workers reach settlements, and/or secure restitution on their behalf.
  • Collaborate with worker groups and employers to write specific rules, such as which documents to maintain, how to approach mobile workers that work across borders (such as delivery drivers), and how to adapt the law to existing payroll systems.
  • Develop a robust marketing and awareness-raising campaign around the law’s launch date. This should include traditional advertising (such as in bus shelters) and social media, as well as direct, in-person events and presentations delivered to workers and employers. Use translation services to reach as many workers as possible.
  • Design a separate, COVID-specific provision or law to provide supplemental sick leave protections. Paid sick leave is typically accrued, whereas COVID leave laws are often automatic and include a higher cap (up to 80 hours). The complaint and investigation process, however, should mirror that of the general sick leave law.