Should the federal government require businesses it contracts with to offer paid sick days to their workers? The answer is a resounding yes – and between now and March 28, you have an opportunity to let the Department of Labor know why it’s such a good idea.
Last Labor Day, President Obama signed Executive Order 13706, Establishing Paid Sick Leave for Federal Contractors. This would ensure that those who work on federal contracts – projects funded by our tax dollars – are able to earn up to seven paid sick days a year, so they don’t have to risk a paycheck or a job to care for themselves or a loved one. Now the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) has proposed a rule to make that executive order a reality for 828,000 workers who service federal contracts – nearly half of whom (437,000) right now don’t earn a single paid sick day. The order would go into effect January 1, 2017.
Here are the top reasons for support from Family Values @ Work, the network of local and state coalitions winning paid sick days across the country.
1. First of all, we applaud the fact that so many employees will gain new or expanded access to paid sick time. These workers will also be protected from discrimination or retaliation for using paid sick days and can use the time to care for family members and to address domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking. We are especially pleased that the definition of family applies to those related by blood or affinity, reflecting the reality of families in the U.S. today.
2. A growing body of research from the places where our network has won paid sick days shows that this policy is good for workers and their families, good for business and for the overall community. Expanding it to those who work for federal contracts will contribute to worker health and safety. A day or more to recover can prevent routine illnesses from turning into something much more serious. Those who earn paid time for a doctor’s visit are more likely to get annual check-up’s and critical screenings like mammograms, to identify any health problems and seek timely treatment. They’re less likely to be injured on the job, and less likely to use an emergency room because the doctor’s office is closed after hours or an untreated condition worsened.
3. The executive order is also good for our tax dollars. Paid sick days will improve employee retention and productivity for federal contractors, resulting in more economical and efficient government contracting. We know, for example, that lack of access to paid sick days increases the probability of job separation by 25 percent. Job loss is costly not only to that individual but also to the company, which typically spends about a fifth of an employee’s salary to put in a replacement.
Expanding paid sick days to those who work on federal contracts also sets a standard, exactly what our procurement funds should do. Businesses that benefit from our tax dollars should be a model for the rest of the country. And the business partners in our coalitions tell us, they want this policy to apply to everyone because it helps level the playing field and it helps their customers.
The coalitions in our network who are mounting campaigns now are inspired by this Executive Order and eager to see it implemented. Just as expansion to federal contractors will boost their campaigns, so their wins will pave the way for a national paid sick days standard, the Healthy Families Act.
Your voice matters. Please take a few moments to write a comment in support of Establishing Paid Sick Leave for Federal Contractors, Regulatory Information Number (RIN) 1235-AA13.