President Obama Announces Executive Order Expanding Access to Paid Sick Leave For Workers on Federal Contracts
Yesterday President Obama celebrated Labor Day by signing an executive order ensuring that nearly 300,000 workers on federal contracts will have the ability to earn paid sick leave beginning in 2017. Nationally, more than 40 million workers, many of whom are low-wage earners, do not have access to paid sick leave. This executive order is a crucial step towards establishing national workplace policies that guarantee all workers will not have to choose between their families and their livelihood. Here are some quick facts showing the importance of paid sick leave:
- Nationally, nearly 40 percent of private-sector workers—estimated to be more than 40 million people—do not have access to a single paid sick day. Full-time workers are more than three times as likely to have access to any form of paid leave as part-time workers.
- Low- and middle-income workers are much less likely to have paid sick leave than high-income workers. 82 percent of high-wage workers have access to paid sick days, but only 14 percent of low-wage workers do. Additionally workers with a college degree are more than twice as likely to have access to paid leave as those with less than a high school education.
- Hispanic workers are the least likely to have paid sick days. Only 43 percent of Hispanic workers have access to paid leave, compared with 59 percent of whites, 61 percent of African Americans, and 62 percent of Asian Americans.
- Service workers are less likely to have paid sick days. Jobs in the service industry, where workers come into direct contact with customers, are less likely to offer paid sick leave. For example, nearly 9 in 10 restaurant workers cannot take paid sick days, and as a result roughly two-thirds have reported to work and either prepared, cooked, or served customers food while sick.
- Paid sick leave significantly reduces healthcare costs. Universal paid sick leave would reduce the number of emergency room visits by 1.3 million per year, saving $1.1 billion in medical costs annually. And workers with access to paid sick days are more likely to utilize preventative health services such as cancer screenings and tests.
Paid sick leave allows workers to take the necessary time to care for themselves or their families, which improves the health and performance of employees and will enable federal contractors to remain competitive. Paid sick leave also protects public health since workers would be able to stay home from work when they have contagious illnesses. In extending paid sick leave to all workers who work on federal contracts, the Obama administration has done all it can to create a basic standard that applies to everyone. Now it’s on Congress to pass legislation to guarantee paid sick leave for all workers.
BOTTOM LINE: No one should be forced to choose between caring for a sick family member or recovering from their own illness and keeping their job. The president’s executive order ensures that 300,000 more workers won’t have to make that choice, but there is still more to be done. It’s time for Congress to act to protect all Americans.
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