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Federal contractor sick pay rule: A distinction with a difference

The headline a few days ago was eye-catching. "Obama Just Guaranteed Sick Days For More Than A Million Workers." Some pundits now wonder if this could be the first step toward a major shift toward extending the reach of laws protecting federal workers in Texas and elsewhere to the whole economy. Time will answer the question. What we know is that the new rule comes over the objections of business lobbyists.

What the new executive order states is that companies who do contract work for the federal government will have to start allowing their employees some measure of guaranteed sick leave starting next year.

Paid leave is the law now

Paid sick time is something that is already granted to federal workers. The thing is the rule for contractors represents a distinction with a difference. To be sure there is clear understanding, it might be important for those who feel denied their rights consult with an attorney with experience in the area of federal employee law.

In general terms, here are some differences of note. The facts, as provided by the Office of Personnel Management are that federal workers are entitled to paid absences for:

  • Personal medical reasons
  • Caring for family or for bereavement
  • The care of family with serious medical problems
  • Purposes related to adoptions

What's different

Workers for federal contractors will be eligible for paid sick leave for the same reasons, but what is different is the rate at which that time will accrue.

Most full-time federal agency workers earn four hours of leave per pay period. Part-timers earn one hour for every 20 they work. There is no limit to how much time can be accrued.

Under the executive order, federal contract workers will get just one hour of leave for every 30 worked. They'll also see their hours earned capped at 56 per year – a total of seven days.

The administration says the change should affect just over 1 million people starting in January.

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