Obama Order Will Give Federal Contractors Paid Sick Leave

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By Gayle Cinquegrani

President Barack Obama will sign an executive order later today requiring federal contractors to offer their employees up to seven days of paid sick leave per year, the White House announced.

The requirement will apply to new federal contracts beginning in 2017. The White House estimates 300,000 workers will begin receiving paid sick leave because of this order.

Under the order, workers on federal contracts will earn at least one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours they work. They will be allowed to use this leave to care for themselves or a family member and for absences resulting from domestic violence or sexual assault.

The Labor Department will issue a rule next year to implement the executive order, White House Domestic Policy Council Director Cecilia Munoz said during a press call Sept. 6.

“This executive order is attempting to ensure the federal government leads by example,” Labor Secretary Thomas Perez told reporters participating in the call. “The U.S. is the only country where a federal paid leave law has become a partisan issue,” he said. Paid sick leave is “a when question, not an if question.”

Approximately 40 percent of the private sector workforce—44 million private sector workers—lacks access to paid sick leave, White House Senior Adviser Valerie Jarrett said during the call. “This is a public health risk if you’re not able to take off when you’re sick—particularly if you’re working in a restaurant,” Jarrett said.

The administration officials did not provide an estimated cost to contractors of implementing paid sick leave, but they asserted the cost to contractors would be offset by decreased staff turnover and increased worker productivity.