WASHINGTON, D.C. - The Labor Department will now require government contractors to provide paid sick leave to their employees.

The rule lets workers accrue up to seven days, of paid sick leave annually. The Department of Labor says the rule should directly impact over 1.1 million people - 600,000 of whom currently have no sick leave. It affects construction industry businesses for projects covered by the Davis-Bacon Act or a contract in connection with federal property or lands and related to offering services for federal employees, their dependents, or the general public. The regulations do not apply to contracts for the manufacturing or furnishing of materials, supplies, articles, or equipment to the federal government that are subject to the Walsh-Healey Public Contracts Act.

The sick leave rule requires that workers in assignments related to many federal contracts receive one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours they work, up to 56 hours of leave a year. Employees will be able to use those days to receive medical care, look after a relative, or deal with domestic violence or sexual assault. It only affects contracts solicited by the Federal government beginning January 1, 2017.

The Labor Department says the rule:

  • Ensures employers have choices in how to best adapt the paid sick leave requirement to their businesses. For example, employers can choose to allow workers to accrue leave over time, or to frontload leave for ease of administration.
  • Includes flexibilities related to integration with employers’ existing paid time off policies and leave provisions in existing collective bargaining agreements.
  • Improves the health and performance of employees of covered federal contractors and brings benefits packages offered by those federal contractors in line with leading firms, ensuring they remain competitive in the search for dedicated and talented employees.
  • Protects the public health by ensuring that covered federal contractors’ employees, customers and clients are able to stay home when they are sick.

Advocates say the benefits of mandatory paid sick leave are substantial. Labor Secretary Thomas Perez called paid sick leave an “economic imperative and a public health imperative as well.”