Contractors Public administration

Stakeholders weigh in on paid sick leave for federal contract workers

employee time sheet

Photo: alexskopje/iStockphoto

Washington – Small-business owners are voicing concerns that a proposed Department of Labor rule requiring federal contractors to provide their workers with paid sick leave would be burdensome.

“This will drive costs up significantly,” one stakeholder commented. “Most of our contracts are bare-boned in pricing. Further financial burdens on business will either put us out of business, because we can’t afford to pay the costs of all the regulations, or it will put us in an untenable bidding position.”

Others commenters concurred. Some also claim that the proposal – which would require federal contractors to provide employees with 56 hours of paid sick leave a year – could create a “human resource nightmare” for employers who hire workers on a seasonal or as-needed basis. The proposed rule states that employees should earn at least one hour of paid sick time for every 30 hours worked.

President Barack Obama signed an Executive Order in September setting forth the new requirement. On Feb. 25, the Department of Labor published a proposed rule that would implement the order. Stakeholders have until March 28 to submit comments.

Not every stakeholder believes the rule would be overly burdensome, and some commenters pointed out the potential benefits.

“Every working human should have the ability to stay home when ill, or taking care of their families, without having to suffer for a loss of a day’s wage,” one commenter said.

If implemented, the rule would guarantee access to paid sick leave for about 828,000 workers – half of whom do not currently have this paid time off. Recent studies have found that workers without paid sick days are more likely to delay or reject medical treatment, and as many as 3 million employees go to work sick every week. Proponents claim that offering paid sick leave can help reduce the spread of illnesses in the workplace, boost productivity and lower health care costs.

Currently, five states and dozens of local municipalities require employers to provide sick leave to their workers. Federal legislation in the House and Senate that would expand paid sick leave to most working Americans has not gained traction in the Republican-dominated Congress.

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