Obama signs executive order on paid sick leave

Obama signed the executive order on the United States' Labor Day holiday

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U.S. President Barack Obama signed an executive order Monday that will give employees working for federal contractors up to seven days of paid sick leave annually.

The measure, which will affect approximately 300,000 people, applies to new contracts beginning in 2017, and gives workers one hour of sick leave for every 30 hours worked.

Obama signed the executive order on the United States' Labor Day holiday, as he flew to speak to labor leaders in Boston.

"You have parents who have to choose between coming to work or staying home with their sick child," he said in his speech.

"That's not good for anybody."

Obama said the new policy "builds on growing momentum" started by dozens of cities that have expanded paid sick leave for city employees and by companies like Hilton, Facebook and Microsoft that have expanded sick leave or required it of their contractors.

"They understand that it helps with recruitment and retention. It helps you keep good employees," he said.

The president also called on Congress to enact legislation that would require businesses with more than 15 employees to offer seven days of sick leave, saying that 40 percent of private-sector workers -- 44 million Americans -- currently don't have access to paid sick leave.

Obama has long held expansion of paid leave for working families as a major priority, and in his speech Monday he repeated themes from his State of the Union address earlier this year.

"Right now we are the only advanced nation on Earth that does not guarantee paid maternity leave," he said.

"We need to find a way to make paid family and medical leave a reality for all Americans. It's past time to do it. It will be good for business, not bad for business."

Obama said it was up to Congress to enact those national policies, but "where I have the power to act, I will."

Obama cited recent executive actions, including raising wages for federal contractors and extending overtime pay rules.

He also said he would be finalizing a rule this week on pay secrecy so that employees will know when they are not getting compensated as much as they should be, particularly in cases in which male employees see higher salaries than their female counterparts.

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