I have seven kids.  I fully understand the importance of “leave” from work when another kid comes along (…how did that happen?…) or when a close family member is sick.  But right now, they are all happy.

Signed by President Barack Obama on September 7, 2015, Executive Order No. 13706 will require federal contractors and subcontractors to provide employees with one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked, which is up to seven days of paid sick leave per year.  The Executive Order is scheduled to take effect for contracts entered into after January 1, 2017.

Sick leave includes time off for the employee’s physical or mental illness, injury, a medical condition, treatment, or diagnosis thereof. It also covers time off to seek counseling, relocation, or assistance due to domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking. Leave also extends to the same for an employee’s spouse, child, parent, blood-related family member, or someone “whose close association with the employee is the equivalent of a family relationship.”   That’s the legal speak!

But what’s the practical effect on federal contractors?  Here are some takeaways:

  • Since the rule applies only to federal contractors, you may not be required to change your existing employment practices.
  • Even if you are a federal contractor, your existing policies regarding paid leave may be sufficient if it provides at least as much is required and for the same reasons required by the Executive Order.
  • Employees will be required to give notice of the need for paid sick leave at least seven days in advance, if the leave is foreseeable, or as soon as possible if not foreseeable.
  • After three or more consecutive days of sick leave, an employee must provide its employer with certification of the need for the leave.
  • Employers may not retaliate against employees for taking or attempting to take paid sick leave.
  • Terminated employees are not entitled to unpaid sick leave as compensation upon separation from the job.
  • The rule is broad in scope and covers much more than just an employee’s doctor’s appointments—it covers family members and domestic partners.
  • Leave may be taken for physical or mental treatments, or assistance due to domestic or sexual abuse.
  • Unused leave amounts may be carried over from year to year.

As the President explained in the Order, providing access to paid sick leave will improve the health and performance of employees of federal contractors and bring their benefits packages in line with model employers. However, those improvements will come with a cost. As an employer, paid sick leave will lead to higher costs, which will be passed on to the government (and thus the tax payers) via their contracts, and may potentially result in higher absentee rates as employees take time to care for loved ones. Of course some federal contractors may already be providing paid sick leave either as a result of company policies or collective bargaining agreements.