Seattle to Guarantee Paid Sick Leave for Food Delivery Workers

by Marissa Sheldon, MPH
paid sick leave

Part of the Food Policy Snapshot Series

Policy name: Seattle Council Bill 120514: Paid sick leave for app-based workers

Overview: The Seattle City Council has passed an ordinance requiring paid sick leave for app-based gig workers, including food delivery drivers.  

Location: Seattle, WA

Population: 0.8 million

Food policy category: Food services

Program goals: To protect the health and safety of app-based workers and their families. 

How it works: Workers will accrue one day of paid sick leave or safe time every 30 days worked on the app as long as at least one delivery was made in Seattle. Safe time can be used during situations such as a public health emergency, closure of a family member’s school or daycare, or reasons related to domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking. Up to nine days of accrued sick or safe time can be carried over into the following calendar year. Pay rates will be determined based on the employee’s average daily earnings, excluding tips. 

The policy applies to those who work for apps with at least 250 employees worldwide and who provide services partially or fully in Seattle. It does not cover employees of apps that allow customers to select a specific person to provide the service and communicate with them about the job.

Progress to date: In July 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic, Seattle passed a temporary Gig Worker Paid Sick and Safe Time Ordinance that provided paid sick and safe time for app-based transportation and food delivery workers. On November 1, 2022, the ordinance was amended to state that sick and safe time could be accrued and used only through April 30, 2023. Council Bill 120514, making the policy permanent, was introduced in January 2023. The City Council unanimously voted in favor of its passing, and Mayor Bruce Harrell signed it into law on March 29, 2023. 

Why it is important: App-based food delivery workers and other gig workers do not traditionally receive the same rights and benefits as full-time employees. It is crucial, nonetheless, that these workers are given paid leave so that they do not have to decide between paying bills and taking care of themselves or their families. 

During the pandemic, the nation was ordered to stay home as much as possible and people began to rely on delivery services more than ever. Delivery workers, many of whom were not earning a minimum wage at the time, let alone have paid sick leave, risked their own health in order to allow others to stay safe and healthy at home. Seattle’s legislation is a step towards ensuring that gig workers are also provided protections to keep themselves and their families safe and healthy. 

Program/Policy initiated: The law will go into effect for food delivery workers on May 1, 2023, and for all other eligible app-based workers on January 13, 2024. 

Point of contact: 
Seattle City Council

Similar practices: Seattle is the first city in the country to pass a permanent law allowing sick leave for gig workers. In 2022, Seattle became the first city to ensure minimum wage for app-based delivery drivers through its PayUp legislation

Evaluation: While a formal evaluation has not yet been conducted, Instacart and Uber have both expressed support for the legislation, and workers themselves have anecdotally expressed excitement about it. 

Learn more:


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