By Maya Raghu, National Women’s Law Center
Today, the U.S. Department of Labor issued a final rule implementing President Obama’s 2015 Executive Order requiring federal contractors to allow their employees to earn up to seven paid sick days a year. The U.S. is one of only a few countries that does not guarantee workers a single day of paid sick leave. Now, more than a million people working on federal contracts will have greater ability to take time from work to deal with their own or a family member’s illness or medical condition, to obtain medical care, or to address domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking, including more than 600,000 people who today have no paid sick time at all.
Paid sick days are particularly important to women, who are more likely than men to hold low wage jobs that lack important benefits like paid leave and access to health insurance, and also shoulder the majority of caregiving responsibilities, making them more likely to need time off to care for family members. Without paid sick leave, workers are forced to choose between addressing their own or their family’s health issues, and earning wages critical to sustaining a family. The rule ensures that fewer people will have to make that terrible choice.
Paid sick days are also critical for survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking, the majority of whom are women. These forms of violence have significant and wide-ranging impacts on an individual victim’s employment and employment opportunities, as well as the workplace itself. Economic security — including a job — is critical to survivors’ ability to leave violent situations, seek justice and/or obtain health care or other assistance while staying safe and supporting a family. However, many survivors do not have access to leave, whether paid or unpaid, or cannot afford to take unpaid leave, and risk losing a job if they do so. The new rule allows survivors who work on federal contracts to use paid sick days to take critical steps toward securing their health and safety.
This rule, combined with the increasing number of private companies that provide paid sick leave to employees, is a significant step on the road to extending this important benefit to all workers.