Employees of federal contractors must be allowed to earn up to seven days of paid sick leave each year, under a new executive order that President Obama signed on Labor Day. The leave includes paid time off for family care.

"This will give about 300,000 working Americans access to paid sick leave for the first time," Obama said after signing the order.

The White House says the new policy will allow federal contractors to compete with "model employers" and also bring a boost in efficiency and cost savings. The policy calls for employees to earn one hour of paid sick time for every 30 hours they work.

"The executive order does not affect private sector workers," NPR's Mara Liasson reports for our Newscast unit, adding, "42 percent of them do not have paid sick leave."

Saying the U.S. needs to do more both to compete and to support its workers, Obama said, "I believe that working Americans should have the basic security of paid leave. Right now, we are the only advanced nation on Earth that does not guarantee paid maternity leave. Think about that."

The new rule "is effective immediately," according to the order. But it also says it applies to contracts that are solicited or awarded after 2016.

Obama discussed the new rule and the labor movement during a visit to Boston, where he attended a union rally and breakfast Monday.

The president said, "When you make sure everybody gets a fair shot and a fair shake, and you're fighting for decent wages for workers, and making sure they've got decent benefits, when you reward people who are playing by the rules — that's how everybody does better."

Among other details of the new federal policy:

"Paid sick leave accrued under this order shall carry over from 1 year to the next and shall be reinstated for employees rehired by a covered contractor within 12 months after a job separation.

"The use of paid sick leave cannot be made contingent on the requesting employee finding a replacement to cover any work time to be missed."

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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