Sound Progress

Research and insights from Puget Sound Sage.

An Apple A Day: Why Paid Sick Days for Grocery Workers is Good for Your Health

apple a dayWhat if 42% of the employees at working Puget Sound area restaurants reported not having washed their hands after using the bathroom? The leading reason: Management would not provide soap in the bathroom.

This is only a hypothetical, but I bet you’d ask some tough questions of the management at your favorite eating spot, before ordering up the usual.

Here is what’s NOT hypothetical, but really happening.  In a recent survey of grocery store and supercenter workers in King County, Puget Sound Sage found that 42% of grocery workers in King County go to work sick, because they do not get adequate paid time off. Click here to read the policy brief

The Sage survey found that of all those in our survey who reported working while sick, 66% said that they did so because they did not have paid sick days, had used all of their paid time off already, and/or had wanted to save their paid time off.

Paid sick leave is an important public health concern for curbing the spread of illness and disease. However, large grocery chains not only short workers paid sick leave, but any paid time off at all. All workers in the survey were employed by chain stores with more than 10 locations, or by stores with about 100 employees per store and a minimum of 4 locations.

These grocers comprise some of the largest retailers in the world, selling and earning billions of dollars each year, and compensating executive officers in the tens of millions of dollars. However, few of their frontline workers in the Seattle area receive adequate paid time off for any purpose.

  • Only one in three workers surveyed (33%) received more than five days of paid time off.
  • 40% received zero to five days of total paid time off per year: which includes vacation, sick days, holidays, etc.

paid sick days fig 1

In order to protect the health and safety of workers, their families and the public, it is imperative that grocery companies work to increase access to paid sick days, not find ways to eliminate them. For more information about paid sick leave in Seattle check out our post on the issue next week.  For more information about how scheduling practices impact workers and communities read our post “Short-Shifted.”

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