The Obama administration announced Thursday two new rules it says will boost working families. Starting next year, federal government contractors must provide paid sick leave to workers, and large companies must report to the government how they pay employees by race and gender.
The updates reflect the needs of the modern workforce, White House senior adviser Valerie Jarrett said, and are designed to lift the country’s struggling breadwinners. Opponents of both measures say they overburden businesses and could threaten jobs.
“To build a 21st-century workplace that is globally competitive,” Jarrett said, “employers must adopt 21st-century workplace policies.”
The paid sick leave mandate, which will affect only government-solicited contracts, will reach about 1.1 million workers, allowing them to accrue up to seven days of compensated time off each year, according to the Labor Department. Eligible employees would earn one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 they work.
Labor Secretary Thomas Perez said families that lose a day or two of wages risk slipping into poverty. “It’s the difference between food on the table,” he said, “and gas in the tank.”
The measure comes a year after President Obama first signed an executive order compelling federal contractors to provide paid sick leave and seven months after the Labor Department released a draft of the directive. Perez said the White House will keep pushing to open the benefit to all workers.
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