Family Forward Policies

Sick and Safe Leave

Sick and safe leave refers to paid leave for employees to care for themselves or a family member during a temporary, short-term medical issue, such as illness; to attend to a critical safety need, such as domestic violence or sexual assault recovery; or for preventative health care, such as an annual well visit or a prenatal doctor appointment.

Benefits to Employers1

  • Increases productivity
  • Does not lower profits
  • Increases retention, reducing turnover costs
  • Reduces employee absenteeism
  • Provides healthier work environment
  • Reduces health care costs
  • Workers recover from temporary disability, illness or injury more quickly
  • Increases loyalty

Benefits to Children2,3

  • Encourages use of preventative health care
  • Children recover more quickly from illness and injury when parents are available to care for them
  • Lowers risk for flu and other illnesses by encouraging children to stay home until they are well
  • Allows workers to care for themselves and their children while in crisis situations, when children and parent health and well-being can be severely impacted. For example, children who experience domestic violence face a host of short- and long-term health issues, and safe leave removes concerns about losing a job while trying to leave a violent spouse or partner.

Benefits to Parents/Families4,5

  • Encourages use of preventative health care
  • Workers recover from disability, illness, or injury more quickly
  • Lowers risk for flu and other illnesses by encouraging parents to stay home until they or their children are well
  • Allows workers to care for themselves and their children while in crisis situations, when children and parent health and well-being can be severely impacted. For example, children who experience domestic violence face a host of short- and long-term health issues, and safe leave removes concerns about losing a job while trying to leave a violent spouse or partner.

Research or Recommendations from National Organizations

Workers with 10 or more paid sick days are more likely to access preventative health care services.6

While it does not provide a recommended amount, the American Medical Association strongly encourages private employers to offer paid sick and medical leave and allow employees to use that leave to care for children when they are sick.7

Sick and safe leave legislation for New York City, the state of Maryland, and the state of New Jersey allow workers to accrue up to 40 hours of paid sick and safe leave each year.

Range of Practices in the United States

Nearly one in three workers—and seven in 10 low- wage workers—do not have access to paid sick leave through their employer.8

A 2017 Bloomberg BNA survey shows that 37 percent of employers who offer sick leave have policies that include safe leave for victims of crimes, domestic violence, assault, or stalking.9

Ten states have enacted paid safe leave laws. North Carolina does not have a safe leave law but does mandate that employers provide “a reasonable period of leave” for victims of domestic violence to obtain a court order or obtain relief. Under the NC statute, leave does not need to be paid.

As of 2015, federal contractors must provide at least seven days of paid sick and family medical leave to employees for preventative care, an existing health condition, illness, or injury.

The US is one of the few developed, industrialized nations that does not require paid sick leave by federal law.

Eleven states, along with 33 jurisdictions and the District of Columbia, have a law requiring employers to offer paid sick leave to employees. Other states, such as Georgia and Minnesota, have a “kin care law” that requires employers who offer paid sick leave to their employees to allow employees to use that time to care for family members. Neither the state of North Carolina nor any jurisdictions within the state have a sick leave law or a kin care law.

Case Study

Katie Button Restaurants

Location: Asheville • Year Founded: 2008

Liese Freund and family

At Katie Button Restaurants, which includes the popular and acclaimed Asheville restaurants Cúrate and Button & Co. Bagels, the journey to family-friendly benefits has been a gradual and intentional process.  

“We didn’t try to offer the full range of benefits we offer now when we first opened, because we needed to make sure we were creating a sustainable business model,” says CEO and Executive Chef Katie Button. “But we’ve been committed since the beginning to providing valuable offerings and supporting workers through every stage of their lives.”

Button says she started by paying a living wage as soon as financially possible. In Asheville, a living wage is $13.65 per hour or $12.15 with employer-provided health insurance. Though living wage isn’t a benefit, per se, it is important, especially in an industry where the majority of workers make at or just above minimum wage, Button says.

At North Carolina’s minimum wage of $7.25 per hour, a full-time worker’s annual pay is just over $15,000. That’s simply not enough to live on, Button says.

“If you have a financially viable business and are offering a job that doesn’t pay a living wage, then it’s not a job. If you can’t pay people what they need to live in a certain region, then you can’t expect them to stay,” she says.

Paid time off was also a top priority, in part to ensure employees would have time to care for themselves and their families and would not work when sick, Button says.

“When people are living paycheck to paycheck without paid time off, you’re incentivizing them to come to work sick, and you’re not giving them the tools they need to take care of themselves and their family,” she says.

Next, the company launched a health insurance and wellness incentive program, and benefits have grown from there. Two years ago, Button began surveying employees to gather feedback on what benefits were important to them, and that process helped her decide to offer a 401K and an improved “family meal,” or meal provided to employees before or between shifts.

“We ask employees if they are satisfied with their current benefits, list benefits we could feasibly offer and then ask them to score what they want or need,” Button says. “We want to make decisions that best impact the majority.”

Frank Muller, Cúrate’s chef de cuisine, appreciates the ability to enroll his two-year-old son in the company’s health and dental insurance program.

“My wife is self-employed, so it has been invaluable having employer supplied health insurance,” says Muller, who has worked for Katie Button Restaurants for over eight years. 

“It definitely reduces turnover. Hourly workers have a higher turnover in general, but within that sector you can do a lot of things to reduce it. Thanks in part to the benefits we offer, we have seen that people stay longer.”

Katie Button, CEO and Executive Chef

In addition to what Katie Button Restaurants is currently able to offer, Button says she often thinks about the challenges of child care in the restaurant industry.

“It’s extremely challenging, both because of the hours and because of the days of the week. It’s nights and weekends. It’s holidays. Our employees are working at all the times when normal child care is not available,” Button says. “I want that to change. I’m trying to figure out how we solve that problem.”

Consistent scheduling is important, along with listening to people’s scheduling needs, she says.

Cúrate General Manager Nathan Lanham, whose daughters are eight-years-old and nine-months-old, started at the restaurant as the lead bartender when it first opened in 2011. He says he’s watched the demographics of the staff shift to include more parents over time as the restaurant has gotten older, and the people who have been working there shift to different stages of their lives.

Though he’s worked different schedules over the years, Lanham says he’s typically home by 6:30 every night but Wednesdays, when he works the night shift, allowing him to have dinner with his family most nights of the week. He is also able to avoid working weekends by coming into the restaurant on Mondays, when it’s closed, to do administrative work.

Working out a schedule that allows employees to see and care for their families is a particularly tough part of being in the restaurant business, Lanham says.

“You get home at midnight or 1 a.m., and your partner has been with the baby or child all day. Or you find yourself on a close shift one day and an open shift the next. There are some big swings,” he says. So working in a place that helps him keep a more consistent schedule is key.

In an industry with nearly half a million workers in North Carolina and nearly a 73 percent turnover, nationally, being family friendly gives employers a big edge, Button says.

“It definitely reduces turnover,” says Button. “Hourly workers have a higher turnover in general, but within that sector you can do a lot of things to reduce it. Thanks in part to the benefits we offer, we have seen that people stay longer.”

Offering a range of benefits helps attract employees, especially in an industry where those benefits are harder to find, Button says. Only 52 percent of service industry workers have access to paid sick leave to care for themselves and their families when they are ill, and only 9 percent have access to paid family leave to care for their children immediately after a birth or adoption.

“We think these benefits say right up front that we care about our employees and, most importantly, that we’re constantly improving,” she says.

Cúrate Assistant Manager Liese Freund, whose daughter is three, says she first learned of the assistant manager opening from a Craigslist ad and knew right away it was the job for her.

“I kept reading about Katie and the things she stands for, and the more I read the more I figured I had to work for her,” says Freund. Freund, who lived in Seattle for 12 years before briefly relocating to New Jersey, says she’s been “in the restaurant business forever.”

Freund works nights so she can care for her daughter while her husband works during the day. She says she feels heard and supported by her managers and the company, which makes her feel valued as a person and as an employee.

“To be seen and heard and respected just feels so good,” she says. “I 100 percent see myself with this company long term. I hope I can do a good job for them.” 

Button says she hopes the restaurant industry at-large will shift so more workers have access to a living wage and benefits that are prevalent in other industries.

“Employers in the restaurant industry have a tough time combating high turnover and finding high-quality employees because we have earned a reputation of being a low-paying industry with no benefits or career path. We owe it to our employees to change the status quo, and we’re working hard to do that.” she says.

Muller agrees.

“At the end of the day, restaurant workers put an effort—both physical and mental—into their jobs that is often not proportional to their pay rate,” he says. “Supporting workers in other ways such as paid sick leave and vacation time, health insurance, dining discounts, retirement planning, family meals, etc. is not just a nice thing to do, it is the right thing to do.”  

Sample Benefits – Katie Button Restaurants:

  • Medical, dental, vision and short-term disability, accident, critical illness and life insurance for full-time employees
  • A $300 wellness incentive for employees who complete a personal health screening questionnaire, a primary care well-care visit and a dental screening
  • An employee assistance program for all employees through Employee Assistance Network—a confidential program that provides professional assistance to employees and their family members to help with financial problems, stress, problems at work, addiction or relationship problems
  • Family Meal (twice daily) for all employees
  • Dining discounts for all employees
  • Paid time off for all full-time employees, with the exception of tipped employees
  • Sick leave for salaried employees
  • Volunteer time off for all employees after one year of employment
  • 401K with employer match after one year of employment
Show 9 footnotes
  1. North Carolina Early Childhood Foundation. “The Research Basis for Family-Friendly Workplaces.” June 14, 2018. https://files.familyforwardnc.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/NCECF_FFNC-policyfactsheet-061418.pdf.
  2. North Carolina Early Childhood Foundation. “The Research Basis for Family-Friendly Workplaces.” June 14, 2018. https://files.familyforwardnc.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/NCECF_FFNC-policyfactsheet-061418.pdf.
  3. Effects of domestic violence on children.” U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Women’s Health. https://www.womenshealth.gov/relationships-and-safety/domestic-violence/effects-domestic-violence-children
  4. North Carolina Early Childhood Foundation. “The Research Basis for Family-Friendly Workplaces.” June 14, 2018. https://files.familyforwardnc.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/NCECF_FFNC-policyfactsheet-061418.pdf.
  5. Effects of domestic violence on children.” U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Women’s Health. https://www.womenshealth.gov/relationships-and-safety/domestic-violence/effects-domestic-violence-children
  6. DeRigne, LeaAnne, PhD; Patricia Stoddard-Dare, PhD; Linda M. Quinn, PhD; Cyleste Collins, PhD. “How Many Paid Sick Days Are Enough?” Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. June 2018. https://journals.lww.com/joem/Abstract/2018/06000/How_Many_Paid_Sick_Days_Are_Enough_.1.aspx.
  7. American Medical Association. “AMA Recognizes Public Health Benefits of Paid Sick Leave.” June 15, 2016. https://www.ama-assn.org/ama-recognizes-public-health-benefits-paid-sick-leave.
  8. National Partnership for Women and Children. http://www.paidsickdays.org/research-resources/quick-facts.html.
  9. Elgatian, Tawny. “Employers Still Favor Traditional Paid Leave Menu, Reports Show.” Bloomberg BNA. October 11, 2017. https://www.bna.com/employers-favor-traditional-b73014470730/