HR Management & Compliance

Federal contractors advised to get ready for new paid sick leave order

President Barack Obama’s latest Executive Order affecting federal contractors isn’t scheduled to take effect for more than a year, but employers with federal contracts are advised to take a look at their sick leave policies now to make sure they will be in compliance when the time comes.

On September 7, Obama signed an Executive Order that will require federal contractors and subcontractors to offer employees up to seven days of paid sick leave per year. A fact sheet from the White House says that beginning with new contracts in 2017, workers will earn a minimum of one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked. The White House points out that contractors are free to offer more generous paid leave entitlements.

The fact sheet says the Executive Order will allow workers to use paid sick time to care for themselves, a family member (such as a child, parent, spouse, or domestic partner), or other loved ones. It will also apply to absences resulting from domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking.

The fact sheet says the order will give approximately 300,000 people working on federal contracts the ability to earn seven days of paid sick leave each year.

Plan now

“If employers that hold federal government contracts or subcontracts are not currently providing paid sick leave, they should begin now to plan for the provision of seven days of paid sick leave for employees working on covered contracts,” Judith Kramer, an attorney with Fortney & Scott, LLC in Washington, D.C., said following the announcement of the order.

Contractors and subcontractors that already have paid time off policies in place should examine their policies to make sure they comply with the terms of the order, said Kramer, an editor of the monthly Washington, D.C.-based newsletter Federal Employment Law Insider. “They should also ensure that they are in compliance with the new certification requirements, meaning that they may only require certification by a health care provider for employee absences of three or more consecutive workdays,” she said.

Kramer said that even if contractors already offer paid sick time, they should carefully look at all their obligations. She said the Executive Order makes it clear that paid sick leave will be in addition to contractors’ obligations under the Service Contract Act and the Davis-Bacon Act. Thus, contractors won’t receive credit toward their prevailing wage or fringe benefit obligations for paid sick leave provided to satisfy the requirements of the order, she said.

Kramer also pointed out that paid sick leave mandated by the Executive Order doesn’t replace or supersede the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) or state and local paid leave requirements.

For more on how states are regulating paid sick leave and the challenges of paid sick leave policies, check out “Law or no law, paid sick leave generating buzz among employers.”

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