From soda tax to paid sick leave: Here's what takes effect Jan. 1

From soda tax to paid sick leave: Here's what takes effect Jan. 1

File photos from MGN Online

Some big changes are coming to Washington state and Seattle in the new year. Here’s what goes into effect Jan.

Seattle's new tax on soda, sugary drinks

The Seattle City Council in June approved a tax on the distribution of sweetened beverages such as Pepsi and Coke, sports drinks, energy drinks and other drinks. The tax excludes diet drinks.
Distributors would pay the tax of 1.75 cents per fluid ounce, but consumers are expected to see price increases.

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Supporters said the tax would cut down on the consumption of sugary drinks that have little nutritional value and are linked to obesity, diabetes and other health problems.

Businesses and labor groups that opposed the tax said it would hurt small businesses and cost jobs. Other critics called it regressive, saying it would affect low-income consumers the most.

Seattle is among a handful of cities nationwide that have a soda tax.

Minimum-wage increase for workers

The increase is part of 2016's Initiative 1433, and it will ultimately raise the state's rate to $13.50 an hour by 2020.

For employers in cities that already have higher minimum wages, including Seattle, the local minimum wage rate will apply as long as it is higher than the state minimum. The statewide minimum wage will increase to $12 in 2019 and will hit $13.50 the following year.

The initiative does not change overtime pay requirements.

A University of Washington public policy professor told The Seattle Times that the increase will likely mean hiring will slow down a bit.

Paid sick leave required 

The law that raises the state’s minimum wage also requires employers to provide paid sick leave starting Jan. 1.

Employees will earn at least one hour of paid sick leave for every 40 hours worked. According to the state Department of Labor and Industries (L&I), employees can use paid sick leave for themselves or family member.

Unused paid sick leave of 40 hours or less must be carried over to the following year. Read more about accrual and usage here.

Implementing paid sick leave law is expected to be a bigger challenge for employers. L&I is developing rules to explain and enforce the new requirements.

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