On Labor Day, President Obama issued a new executive order that will require federal contractors and subcontractors to provide paid sick leave for certain employees.  Here’s what employers need to know about the executive order:

When Will the New Requirements Take Effect?  The executive order will apply to covered contracts where the solicitation for such contract has been issued, or the contract has been awarded outside the solicitation process, on or after January 1, 2017.

Which Employees Must Receive Paid Sick Leave?  All employees who work on the performance of covered federal contracts or subcontracts.

How Much Paid Sick Leave Is Required?  Employees must earn at least one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked.  Employers cannot limit the total amount of paid sick leave accrued at less than 56 hours.  In addition, the paid sick leave must carry over from one year to the next and must be reinstated if an employee is rehired within 12 months of a job separation.

When May Paid Sick Leave Be Used?  The executive order allows paid sick leave to be used for any of the following circumstances:

  1. Physical or mental illness, injury, or medical condition;
  2. Obtaining diagnosis, care, or preventive care from a health care provider;
  3. Caring for a child, a parent, a spouse, a domestic partner, or any other individual related by blood or affinity whose close association with the employee is the equivalent of a family relationship who has any of the conditions or needs for diagnosis, care, or preventive care described above, or is otherwise in need of care; or
  4. Domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking, if the time absent from work is for the purposes otherwise described above, to obtain additional counseling, to seek relocation, to seek assistance from a victim services organization, to take related legal action, including preparation for or participation in any related civil or criminal legal proceeding, or to assist an individual related to the employee as described above.

Can Paid Sick Leave Count Towards Prevailing Wage or Davis-Bacon Act Obligations?  No.

Can Existing Policies Remain In Effect?  An employer’s existing paid sick leave policy will be deemed compliant if it meets the minimum conditions established by the Executive Order.

How Much Notice Is Required From Employees?  Employees must provide at least 7 calendar days’ notice if the need for leave is foreseeable.  Otherwise, the employee must provide notice as soon as practicable.

Can Employees Be Required to Find a Replacement?  No – the use of paid sick leave cannot be made contingent on the employee finding a replacement worker.

Can Employers Require Certification of the Need For Leave?  Employers may only request certification if the absence is of 3 or more consecutive workdays.  If that condition is satisfied, employers may request certification of the “minimum necessary information establishing a need for the employee be absent from work.”

Do Employees Need To Be Paid For Unused Paid Sick Leave On Termination?  No – but the paid sick leave must be reinstated if the employee is rehired within 12 months.

Is There Anything Else That Employers Need to Know?  Employers are prohibited from interfering with paid sick leave or discriminating against employees who use paid sick leave.

Takeaway:  The new executive order requiring paid sick leave for employees of federal contractors is part of a broader trend, particularly at the state and local level, of new paid sick leave requirements for employers.