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DOL: Federal contractors must provide paid sick leave to their workers

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Washington – Beginning in 2017, employers with federal government contracts must provide their workers with up to seven days of paid sick leave per year, according to a Department of Labor final rule published Sept. 29.

The final rule was prompted by Executive Order 13706, signed by President Barack Obama on Sept. 7, 2015. It pertains to all contracts solicited and awarded on or after Jan. 1.

Under the rule, employees will accumulate one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked in relation to a covered contract. The rule also will:

  • Provide a maximum of 56 hours of paid sick leave each year to about 1.15 million federal contract workers – approximately 594,000 of whom currently receive no paid sick leave.
  • Allow employers to offer options “in how to best adapt the paid sick leave requirement to their businesses.” Employers may allow workers to accrue paid sick leave over time or “frontload” it for “ease of administration.”
  • Offer flexibility with employers’ current paid time-off policies and maintain provisions in current collective bargaining agreements.

“Part of the basic bargain of America is that if you work hard, you should be able to take care of your family,” Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez said in a press release announcing the rule. “Paid sick leave helps workers recover from illness, or be there for their families, whether it’s to take an elderly parent to the doctor or to stay home with a young child with a fever. It allows working families to focus on what really matters most without having to worry about the next paycheck.”

At press time, the rule was scheduled to be published in the Sept. 30 Federal Register.

Earlier this year, the Small Business Administration Office of Advocacy sent a letter to DOL asking the agency to consider alternatives to paid sick leave and stating that compliance with the rule would be costly – as much as $70,000 per year – to some small businesses. Other stakeholders have claimed the rule will be burdensome.

According to the National Partnership for Women & Families, five states and several cities already require employers to provide paid sick leave to their employees. 

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