The city of Seattle has passed an ordinance requiring businesses within the city to offer sick and safe days to workers who qualify. Sick days may be for the employee or to care for family members. Safe days provide domestic violence victims days off to relocate, file charges, or attend court proceedings.

The ordinance will take effect on Sept. 1, 2012. All businesses with at least five full-time equivalent employees (FTEs) are covered. Employer obligations vary by number of employees. 

Companies who employ from 5-49 FTEs must provide at least one hour of leave for every 40 hours worked, up to a maximum of 40 hours. Firms with 50-249 FTEs must meet the same minimum accrual rate, but employees may accumulate as many as 56 hours of leave.

Larger employers must provide leave at the rate of one hour for each 30 hours worked, and employees may accumulate as many as 72 hours.

Employees may roll leave totals over from year to year, but employers are not required to pay employees for accrued hours upon termination. For purposes of counting FTEs, the city counts all company employees whether they are within the city limits or not. So any company that has workers in Seattle must comply with the ordinance.

The ordinance is a minimum requirement and employers are free to provide greater benefits than those the ordinance requires.