Earned Sick Days: What Consumers Want

Jan 18, 2013

By Liz Ben-Ishai

While many people assume that paid sick days are widely available to all, that is far from the truth for too many workers.  This critical workplace protection is important both to workers and consumers.  A new poll demonstrates that restaurants that do not offer their employees the opportunity to earn paid sick days do so at their own peril.  The survey, put out by the National Consumers League (NCL), found that 92 percent of consumers believe that it is very important or important that the servers and cooks in the restaurants they patronize do not cook or serve while sick. Well over half of respondents agreed on the importance of allowing these workers to earn paid sick days. With consumers expressing a clear preference for fair sick leave policies, the message to business owners is also clear: to satisfy customers, employers must provide restaurant workers with just working conditions, including earned sick days.  Policymakers should take note as well.


Despite what this poll tells us about consumer preferences, a 2011 study from the Restaurant Opportunity Center United (ROC-United) found that 87.7 percent of workers nationwide do not have paid sick days. But restaurants that hope to thrive in this economy should take note of NCL’s poll: their customers care about the health of their servers and the policies restaurants have in place to protect both workers and consumers. NCL’s convincing polling numbers should be a wake-up call to the many restaurants that don’t yet offer their employees this crucial labor protection.


Fortunately, some restaurants have received this message and are doing the right thing. “Kitchen Ethical,” an event convened this week by NCL and ROC-United, featured two Washington, D.C.-area ethical restaurant owners. Andy Shallal, owner of Busboys and Poets and Eatonville Restaurants, and Chef Tate, owner of Inspire Barbeque, spoke about their commitment to workers’ rights and the impact their policies (including paid sick leave and health insurance coverage) have on the profitability of their restaurants.

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