With the proposed paid sick-leave requirement for federal contractors nearing its Sept. 30 final-rule deadline, the Bureau of Labor Statistics said the number of private-sector employees with access to this benefit was at a record high. 

The bureau, in a July 22 report on employee benefits, said that the share of private-sector workers with access to at least one day of paid sick leave a year increased to 64 percent from 61 percent over the past year, the highest on record. Over the past decade, the percentage has risen by seven percentage points, the bureau said. 

The increase from 2015 to 2016 stemmed from greater access among workers in low-wage occupations, the bureau said, referring to those in jobs with average wages in the bottom 25 percent of wage earners. The share of workers with access to paid sick leave in that percentile rose to 39 percent from 31 percent. This improvement for low-wage workers reduced the inequity in access to paid leave, said the bureau, which is part of the Labor Department.

In 2015, workers in the highest-paid 25 percent of occupations were 2.7 times more likely to have access to paid sick leave than those in the lowest 25 percent of occupations, the report said. By 2016, workers in high-wage occupations were 2.2 times more likely to have paid sick leave than workers in low-wage occupations.

On the day the bureau released its employee benefits report, the Labor Department's revised draft of the paid sick-leave rule for federal contractors was sent to the White House Budget Office for final review. The department sent the revision after reviewing about 35,000 comments on the proposal (RIN:1235-AA13). If approved, the rule would require federal contractors to provide employees with up to seven days of paid sick-leave a year for new or renewed contracts starting in 2017.

President Barack Obama signed an executive order Sept. 7, 2015, requiring federal contractors to offer employees up to seven days of paid sick leave a year. The White House, in a fact sheet on the executive order, said 300,000 workers would benefit from the initiative. 

Access to paid sick leave continues to improve across the country, with recent initiatives in Chicago, Los Angeles, Minneapolis and San Diego. 

Five states, the District of Columbia and at least 28 local jurisdictions have enacted paid sick-leave policies since 2011.  Implementing such policies is “the kind of progress we can expect to see as the national momentum around paid sick time grows and more and more states and localities put paid sick-leave laws in place,” the Labor Department said.

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