Paid sick leave order signed by Obama

Barack Obama (Reuters)
Barack Obama (Reuters)

US President Barack Obama has signed an executive order 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 labour 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.

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