President Orders New Benefits for Federal Contract Workers

Photo (cc) by Tom Lohdan

More than 300,000 American workers will soon enjoy a new employee perk – paid sick leave.

President Barack Obama has signed an executive order requiring that federal contractors provide their workers with up to seven days of paid sick leave per year, The Associated Press reports.

Obama signed the order on Labor Day. He discussed it at a union rally and breakfast that same day, according to NPR.

“When you make sure everybody gets a fair shot and a fair shake, and you’re fighting for decent wages for workers, and making sure they’ve got decent benefits, when you reward people who are playing by the rules — that’s how everybody does better,” the president said at the rally.

An estimated 44 million private sector employees, or 40 percent of the private sector workforce, have no access to paid sick leave, according to a White House press release.

“While roughly 60 percent of workers are eligible under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) to take unpaid, job-protected leave for family and medical reasons for more extended absences, many workers are without coverage for shorter-term health care needs, and others may not be able to afford to stay home sick if it means the loss of pay,” the release says.

The president’s order not only gives 300,000 federal contract workers paid sick leave, which also includes paid time off for family care, it also allows many other employees working on federal contracts the ability to access more sick time than they had previously been offered.

Although the new order takes effect immediately, it won’t impact new federal contracts until 2017, after a public comment period. Both full- and part-time workers will earn a minimum of one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours they work.

Not everyone is excited about the new paid sick leave order. According to The New York Times, the National Federation of Independent Business said the move is simply another onerous mandate handed down to private companies by the government.

“No business in America would require its suppliers and contractors to increase costs that will naturally boomerang back in the form of higher prices,” said Jack Mozloom, the federation’s media director. He said any call by the president to follow suit would ignore the fact that most employers are small businesses that cannot afford the benefit.

Obama has pushed forward a number of worker protections in the federal contract arena during his second term in office.

Obama “signed orders requiring contractors to pay higher minimum wages, banning retaliation against workers who discuss their compensation, providing employees more information about their pay and protecting gay and transgender workers from discrimination,” the Times said.

Do you think employers should be required to provide paid sick leave for workers? Share your comments below or on our Facebook page.

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