Final Rule Gives 7 Days of Paid Sick Leave to Federal Contractors’ Employees
The Department of Labor has released its final rule implementing Executive Order 13706, “Establishing Paid Sick Leave for Federal Contractors,” signed by President Barack Obama on September 7, 2015. The final rule implements the requirement in EO 13706 that certain parties contracting with the federal government provide employees up to seven days of paid sick leave annually. Employees will earn one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked that may be taken if they are sick, need to care for a sick family member, or must see a doctor or take a family member to a medical appointment. Paid sick leave may also be taken for reasons related to domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking. The final rule is scheduled for publication in the Federal Register on September 30, 2016.
The final rule “reflects leading practices by major employers, states, and localities throughout the country,” according to a White House fact sheet. The Labor Department noted that five states—California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Oregon, and Vermont—and more than two dozen cities, counties, and towns have paid sick time laws requiring employers to permit leave for short-term health needs and preventive care. The White House estimates that the final rule will extend paid sick leave to 1.15 million people working on federal contracts, including nearly 600,000 employees who currently lack even one day of paid sick leave.
The new regulation applies to all covered contracts solicited and awarded on or after January 1, 2017. Announcing the final rule, the DOL highlighted these aspects of its requirements:
- Provides up to 56 hours of paid sick leave per year to an estimated 1.15 million employees of federal contractors, including an estimated 594,000 employees who currently receive no paid sick leave.
- Ensures that employers have choices in how to best adapt the paid sick leave requirement to their businesses. For example, employers can choose to let workers accrue leave over time, or to frontload leave for ease of administration.
- Includes flexibilities related to integration with employers’ existing paid time off policies and leave provisions in existing collective bargaining agreements (CBAs).
- Improves the health and performance of employees of covered federal contractors and brings benefits packages offered by those federal contractors in line with leading firms, ensuring that they remain competitive in the search for dedicated and talented employees.
- Protects the public health by ensuring that covered federal contractors’ employees, customers, and clients are able to stay home when they are sick.
Purposes for which leave may be taken. According to the DOL’s paid leave summary, paid leave pursuant to EO 13706 may be taken for absences due to short-term illness or injury and to support preventive health care for the employee and the employee’s children or other family members; it also may be taken for “safe time” for the employee to address the impact of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking of the employee and/or a family member of the employee, such as to attend court proceedings.
Covered employees are permitted to use leave for their own care as well as to care for the employee’s child, parent, spouse, domestic partner, or any other individual related by blood or affinity whose close association with the employee is the equivalent of a family relationship. Under the rule, an equivalent family relationship includes a grandparent, grandchild, brother or sister-in-law, fiance or fiancee, cousin, aunt, or uncle, as well as other people with whom the employee has a significant personal bond that is or is like a family relationship, regardless of biological or legal relationship.
Covered employers. In an overview, the Labor Department notes that the final rule applies to employers entering into new contracts—those in which the solicitation was issued or contract was awarded—on or after January 1, 2017. Employers working under contracts covered by the Service Contract Act or the Davis-Bacon Act, concessions contracts, and service contracts in connection with federal property or lands must meet the final rule’s requirements. Said differently, all contracts covered by Executive Order 13658, “Establishing a Minimum Wage for Contractors,” will also be covered by the final rule.
Existing CBAs. The final rule does not apply to employees working on contracts covered by a CBA that provides at least 56 hours of paid sick time or paid time off that can be used for health-related reasons until January 1, 2020, or the date the CBA terminates, whichever is sooner. The DOL said that the grace period comes in response to commenters’ requests for consideration of the inability of employers operating with CBAs to unilaterally amend existing paid sick leave policies.
Multiemployer plans.The final rule also permits contractors to fulfill their obligations under the rule jointly with other contractors by utilizing multiemployer plans in order to provide access to paid sick leave as required by the final rule—a provision that also responds to commenter requests.
Additional resources. In conjunction with the release of the final rule, the Labor Department has also issued fact sheets, frequently asked questions, a workplace poster, a video, and other related resources on a dedicated webpage.
“Part of the basic bargain of America is that if you work hard, you should be able to take care of your family,” said Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez. “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.”
Early reactions. Executive Vice President for Policy at the Center for American Progress (CAP) Carmel Martin applauded the final rule, noting among other things that a CAP analysis found that only 15 percent of low-income workers have access to any paid sick days, compared to nearly 80 percent of the highest earners. “Even with this rule in place, millions of workers throughout the United States still lack access to a single paid sick day,” Martin said in a statement. “Although a handful of states now require paid sick leave benefits for eligible employees, workers shouldn’t have to depend on living in the right ZIP code or working for a certain employer to have access to these benefits. It’s well past time that Congress act to create a national standard that responds to the needs of all working families, including paid sick leave and paid family and medical leave.”
CAP noted that roughly 40 million U.S. employees—or 40 percent of the nation’s private-sector workforce—have no access to paid sick days.
Senator Patty Murray (D-Wash.) said that “Ensuring all workers have access to paid sick days will help build an economy that works for all families, not just the wealthiest few—and today’s announcement is significant progress toward this goal. Making sure that workers employed by federal contractors won’t have to sacrifice a day’s pay—or sacrifice their job altogether—just to take care of themselves or their sick child, will help strengthen families, communities, and our economy.”
Source: Written by Pamela Wolf, J.D.
Reposted with permission from Wolters Kluwer.
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