This Labor Day, President Obama Extended Sick Leave Benefits to 300,000 Federal Workers

A lot of us spent Labor Day working, including President Obama. He used his Labor Day federal holiday to extend sick leave benefits to 300,000 federal workers.

As NBC News reports:

President Barack Obama used a Labor Day speech to denounce Republicans for a “constant attack on working Americans” as he signed an executive order extending paid sick leave to an additional 300,000 federal workers.

Those working on federal contracts will have the opportunity to earn up to seven sick days per year, depending on how many hours they work, according to a release from the White House. The statement said the changes will go into effect with new contracts beginning in 2017 — just as Obama prepares to leave office.

Okay, let’s check out that White House release:

The Executive Order the President will sign today will:

Give approximately 300,000 people working on federal contracts the new ability to earn up to seven days of paid sick leave each year. Additional workers will gain access to more sick leave than they had before. Beginning with new contracts in 2017, workers will earn a minimum of one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked (though contractors would be free to offer more generous amounts at their discretion);

Allow workers to use paid sick leave to care for themselves, a family member, such as a child, parent, spouse, or domestic partner, or another loved one, as well as for absences resulting from domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking;

Improve the health and performance of employees of federal contractors and bring benefits packages offered by federal contractors in line with leading firms, ensuring they remain competitive in the search for dedicated and talented employees; and

Protect the public health of employees of federal contractors, their customers, and clients by ensuring employees are allowed to stay home when they have communicable diseases.

That sounds pretty great. I appreciate the inclusion of domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking in the list of reasons people can use sick leave, although I am curious why mental illness is not also listed. (Maybe it is implied? I hope so.)

I also very much appreciate the “ensuring employees are allowed to stay home when they have communicable diseases” point. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, after all.

It is curious that all of this happened on Labor Day, because you’d think if anyone wouldn’t be working on Labor Day, it would be the federal government. Still, I’m very glad we have this executive order, and look forward to the day when sick leave is mandatory for all U.S. employees, regardless of employer. If we’re lucky, we may see it in our lifetimes.

Photo credit: U.S. Department of Agriculture

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