New labor measures were recently unveiled as part of the government’s continuing focus on increasing wages and labor standards for federal contractors — and they mean yet another round of requirements for your business to digest and implement.
By an Executive Order, government contractors are now required to provide at least 7 days of paid sick leave. Government contractors may already have existing paid leave policies that fulfill most or all of the requirements of this Executive Order, but it is imperative that contractors and subcontractors ensure their policies are compliant with the nuances of the Order. Provisions to be aware of include the minimum rate of leave accrual, the allowable purposes for which sick leave may be used, and conditions to the claiming and granting of sick leave.
The Executive Order provides that employees of prime contractors and all lower-tier subcontractors working on federal contracts shall earn paid sick leave at a rate no less than 1 hour of paid sick leave per 30 hours worked. Any unused leave must be rolled-over annually and any separated employee that is rehired within 12 months must have their accrued leave reinstated.
Employees may use the accrued sick leave to cover absences for the following purposes:
1. Physical or mental illness;
2. Obtaining diagnosis or care, including preventative care, from a healthcare provider;
3. Caring for any individual whose relationship with the employee is the equivalent of a family relationship that is ill or requires care;
4. Domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking, if the related absence is to seek care or diagnosis for mental or physical illness, to pursue counseling or relocation, obtain assistance from victims’ services organizations, or pursue related legal action.
While the first two purposes are commonplace, contractors should update their policies to permit leave-taking for the care of individuals who are not blood-related but who may approximate a familial relationship with the employee. Contractors’ leave policies should also be sensitive to employees who request leave as a consequence of sexual and domestic violence, or to assist an individual in the family-like relationship previously described who has suffered from sexual or domestic violence.
The Executive Order provides three conditions on requesting and granting leave – one for the employee and two for the contractor:
1. Employees must request leave at least 7 calendar days’ before they require the leave or as soon as practicable.
2. Contractors may not condition granting leave on the employee finding a replacement to cover any work time to be missed.
3. Contractors may request medical certifications for absences of 3 consecutive days or more. Employees have 30 days to provide such certifications.
While the Department of Labor has until September 30, 2016, to issue implementing regulations, government contractors should take steps now to review existing leave policies and take the steps necessary to ensure future compliance.