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The Higher Ed Workplace Blog

President Signs Executive Order on Paid Sick Leave for Federal Contractors

sick leave calendarOn September 7, President Barack Obama signed an Executive Order (EO) requiring federal contractors to offer their employees up to seven days of paid sick leave per year. The EO will apply to new federal contracts beginning in 2017. In a speech at a Labor Day event in Boston, the president touted the effects of his EO by stating that “this will give about 300,000 Americans access to paid sick leave for the first time.” Additionally, with Boston — the city which recently passed an ordinance creating six weeks of paid paternal leave for City of Boston employees — as his backdrop, he called upon Congress to follow suit and expand paid sick leave to millions of employees in the private sector by passing the Healthy Families Act.

Largely modeled after the Healthy Families Act, which has been introduced in every congress since 2004, the president’s EO will allow employees working on federal contracts to earn a minimum of one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked. It will allow workers to use their accrued leave for a variety of personal health-related reasons, to care for family members such as children, parents, spouses, domestic partners or other loved ones, and for necessary absences due to domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking. Furthermore, employees will be allowed to carry over any accrued leave from one year to the next and will have their sick leave reinstated if they are rehired by a covered contractor within 12 months after a job separation.

Other stipulations of the EO state that, if possible, employees should ask for sick leave at least seven calendar days in advance or as soon as it is practicable and that a medical certification would be required if more than three consecutive days are taken off. Any contractors that already have in place paid-time-off policies that allow employees to take such leave for illness and other circumstances as outlined in the president’s EO will not need to modify their policies or permit additional paid time off. The president’s latest labor push follows previous executive actions he has undertaken to raise the minimum wage for employees under federal contracts, to impose additional burdens and obligations on federal contractors and make it more difficult to win federal contracts (read more about the “blacklisting” regulations), and a huge push to expand overtime coverage to millions of workers (see CUPA-HR’s comments to DOL). Although administration officials have said that any costs incurred as a result of providing paid sick leave will be offset by improved employee loyalty and efficiency, many employers dispute this assertion and maintain that not everyone will be able to afford the associated costs of the new benefit.

DOL will now begin its work to prepare a proposed rule to implement the EO in time for 2017 federal contracts. CUPA-HR will be monitoring DOL’s actions and update members as more information on the exact timing of the proposed rule will be made available.

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