Friday, September 11, 2015

Federal Contractors Required to Provide Paid Sick Leave Starting in 2017

This past Monday, President Obama signed an Executive Order that, beginning January 1, 2017, mandates all federal contractors and subcontractors to provide up to 30 hours of paid sick leave for their employees. Workers for contractors subject to this Executive Order will be entitled to earn 1 hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours of work performed, up to a maximum of 56 hours (7 days) of paid sick leave per year. 

Workers who earn paid sick leave will be entitled to use that time to cover absences resulting from: 
  1. illnesses, injuries, or medical issues; 
  2. the need to obtain diagnoses, care or treatment from a healthcare provider; 
  3. the care for a 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" [read, non-adopted step-children, step-parents, etc.], who is seeking a medical diagnosis, or is in need of medical care or treatment; or
  4. domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking.
If a federal contractor already has a collective bargaining agreement in place, or is subject to a state law that provides greater mandatory leave entitlements than this Executive Order, then the provisions of the collective bargain agreement or state law will govern. 

If you are an employer who does any contract work with any federal agency, these requirements will start appearing in your contracts after January 1, 2017, so plan accordingly as that date nears.

Remember also that the provisions of this Executive Order do not supplant or supersede a qualifying employer's obligations to provide reasonable accommodations to a disabled employee under the Americans with Disabilities Act, or provide eligible workers with FMLA leave when necessary. Beginning in 2017, these new paid sick leave requirements will need to be incorporated into federal contractors' existing legal leave obligations. For example, even though federal FMLA leave is not mandated to be paid, if an employee of a federal contractor accrues 56 hours of paid sick leave time under this Executive Order, then takes FMLA leave for his or her own serious health condition, the first seven days of the FMLA may have to be paid. Federal contractors will have to decide whether they want to implement new policies to address these types of issues, such as requiring employees to exhaust all accrued paid-sick-leave under this Executive Order while on an FMLA-qualifying leave.