Dear Commons Community,
Many of us who enjoy good basic employee benefits may have missed the announcement of President Obama’s executive order signed earlier this month guaranteeing sick pay for workers on federal contracts. Making good on his executive order, the U.S. Labor Department published a final rule yesterday that provides seven days paid sick leave for workers employed under federal contracts. The rule is the latest in a string of new regulations aimed at improving working standards for those on the bottom rungs of the economy. As reported by The Huffington Post:
“Under the rule, companies that have contracts with the federal government starting in 2017 must allow workers on those contracts to accrue up to seven sick days per year. Workers get one hour of paid leave for every 30 they work, capped at 56 hours annually. The workers must be notified each pay period of how much paid leave they have banked, and they must be allowed to roll their time over into a new year.
Workers can use that time to care for themselves or a loved one, not just in the event of physical sickness or injury, but also mental illness, domestic abuse and other situations.
A lot of workers already have paid leave through their jobs, but many still do not. Just over a third of private-sector workers don’t get any paid sick days at all, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Naturally, these workers are disproportionately employed in low-wage service jobs, where skimpy benefits tend to accompany skimpy pay. Access to sick days has improved for those workers recently, but it still lags far behind that of higher earners.
Obama’s executive order probably won’t change things for, say, a well-paid defense contractor, who’s probably already got paid sick leave. But it could make a big difference for someone mopping floors or serving burgers inside a federal building.
For workers like that, getting sick ― or having a child get sick ― often means either working through illness or having to sacrifice a day’s pay in order to stay home.
Since some employers still don’t voluntarily offer paid leave to all workers, the Obama administration and many state and local governments have decided to start making them. Mandates like the one implemented by the White House have become increasingly popular, with proponents saying they are the only way to assure vulnerable workers get the same protections as their well-paid counterparts.”
This is an overdue humane step on the part of the federal government.