Obama orders paid leave for federal contractors

President Barack Obama speaks at the Greater Boston Labor Council Labor Day Breakfast Monday. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

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President Barack Obama announced an executive order Monday during a Labor Day address in Boston requiring federal contractors to offer employees seven days of sick leave each year.

Speaking at the Greater Boston Labor Council Labor Day Breakfast, Obama addressed what he said are some of the nation’s more glaring labor concerns, including the nearly 40 percent of workers in the private sector, or more than 40 million Americans, who aren’t paid when they take sick leave. While he couldn’t independently order all companies to offer paid sick leave — only Congress has that power, he told the crowd — Obama did sign an executive order requiring federal contractors to “allow employees who work on our contracts to earn up to seven paid sick days a year.” That amounts to one hour for every 30 hours worked and will apply to new contracts beginning n 2017.

The order will give about 300,000 Americans working as contractors access to sick leave for the first time, according to Obama, who said companies like Microsoft and Facebook already offer paid sick leave to employees and require the same of their contractors because “it helps with recruitment and retention — it helps you keep good employees.”

But outside of those types of companies, “you’ve got parents who have to choose between losing income or staying home with their sick child,” Obama said. “You have victims of domestic violence or sexual assault who can’t seek medical attention or counseling because they might have their pay docked.”

He added, “If they don’t have sick leave, what are they going to do? That’s not good for anybody.”

Not everyone is so keen on requiring sick leave for contracted employees, though, especially some small business and trade associations like the National Federation of Independent Business, which fears the order may increase costs.

“Mandatory paid leave is a great benefit for workers whose employers offer it,” said Jack Mozloom, NFIB’s media director, in a statement. “For workers whose employers can’t absorb the cost, it’s an arbitrary expense that will ultimately result in shorter hours, lower pay or disappearing jobs.”

Other groups, including the Professional Services Council and the Information Technology Industry Council, have been critical recently of the number of contractor-focused executive orders Obama has signed since taking office, issuing a letter in August to the president asking him to refrain from any new action related to contractors.

The organizations claim that the 12 executive orders Obama has signed since 2009 related to contracting and the 16 resulting regulations have significantly increased the cost for vendors to serve government.

In a statement to FedScoop, PSC President and CEO Stan Soloway again rebuked the president for issuing an executive order related to contractors.

“[O]nce again, despite our strong admonition that this never-ending spate of EOs is adding substantial costs to the government and contractors alike, often with little or no actual benefit, the White House has gone forward with yet another contractor-unique executive order that is really a proxy for its broader policy objectives,” Soloway said. “The EO process has become a far too convenient and frequent, but often counter-productive and ineffective, tool to achieve those broader objectives.”

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Government IT News, Obama, Procurement, White House
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