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Paid Sick Leave for Federal Contractors: What Employers Need to Know

Published by on October 22, 2015

On September 7, 2015, President Obama signed an executive order mandating paid sick leave for federal contractor and subcontractor personnel. The order will be implemented through regulations to be released by the Secretary of Labor, and the order will become effective as of January 1, 2017. While the order does not specifically supersede existing federal, […]

On September 7, 2015, President Obama signed an executive order mandating paid sick leave for federal contractor and subcontractor personnel. The order will be implemented through regulations to be released by the Secretary of Labor, and the order will become effective as of January 1, 2017.

While the order does not specifically supersede existing federal, state or local laws (or collective bargaining agreements) that may provide for stronger benefits, it does establish a complex and precise standard for what must be provided across the board.

In addition, despite the fact that implementation is not activated until 2017, government contractors will need to include provisions certifying compliance with the order in any contracts, solicitations, instruments and other related documents sooner than that, with a requirement that all employees engaged in the performance of the contract must earn at least one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked. That means that, while the order will be fully implemented in all components as of 2017, some preliminary provisions will be enforced on their own through new federal contracts, starting essentially immediately.

Here are some of the relevant details that all government contractors should know pertaining to the overall policy components contained in the executive order:

  • Federal contractors and subcontractor employees will be allowed to earn up to seven days or more of paid sick leave annually, including paid leave allowing for family care.
  • A contractor may not set a limit on the total accrual of paid sick leave per year, or at any point in time, at less than 56 hours.
  • Paid leave under the order will be authorized for use in the following situations:
    – Illness, injury or medical condition
    – Obtaining medical diagnosis or care, including preventative care, from a health care provider
    – Caring for a child, parent, spouse, domestic partner, or any other blood relative or closely-associated equivalent of a family relation – For situations involving leave to address domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking.
  • Employees will be permitted to carry over unused leave from one year to the next.
  • Unused leave will be reinstated for employees rehired within 12 months post-separation by a covered federal contractor or subcontractor.
  • However, employees must request paid sick leave orally or in writing at least seven calendar days in advance of when the need for leave is foreseeable, and in other cases “as soon as is practicable”.
  • Health care certification or documentation, required no later than 30 days from the first day of leave, is only required if the employee is absent for three or more consecutive workdays. Otherwise, it is not required.

Additional provisions apply and can be reviewed in detail by examining the text of the full order as published on the White House website.

Laconic Lookout:

Federal government contractors will be best served by taking an aggressive and proactive stance on responding to this order, and beginning a process of rolling out or revising sick leave policies to ensure compliance with both the immediate federal contract requirements and the 1/1/17 full implementation requirements of the order. Both human resource and contract compliance personnel should be involved in the process to ensure that the process is smooth and seamless both for the contractor’s workforce, and for its contractual relationships with other contractors or with federal agencies.

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