In the News: Obama Administration Works Towards Paid Maternity and Sick Leave

The White House proposes more than $2 billion in new funds to encourage states to develop paid family and medical leave

As part of his State of the Union address on Tuesday, President Barack Obama called on Congress to pass legislation that would give “every worker in America the opportunity to earn seven days of paid sick leave.”

The challenge of balancing work and family has grown as families have shifted so that today in most families all parents work and all parents contribute to caregiving,” the White House reports in a press release. As a result, it’s unveiling new proposals to pass legislation that would allow workers to accrue more paid sick time; propose more than $2 billion in new funds to encourage states to develop paid family and medical leave; and sign a Presidential Memorandum directing federal agencies to advance up to six weeks of paid sick leave for parents with a new child, the release notes. White House Advisor Valerie Jarrett goes into further detail about the Healthy Families Act on LinkedIn.

“In many developed countries, [paid leave] is a given,” Time notes. “Not so in the United States. Only 12% of American workers receive paid family leave, and only 61% have paid sick leave, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.”

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Reports Vox: “As of 2013, the US was one of only eight countries (and the only high-income country) that offered no paid maternity leave, according to the New York Times. And a 2010 book that studied 190 nations’ laws found that 163 guarantee paid sick leave — the U.S., of course, was not one of them.”

Will paid leave be bad for business? According to Fast Company, “Preliminary evidence suggests that generous paid-leave programs in states like California have had a positive economic impact, thanks to the stability they provide.”

Indeed, “[Council of Economic Advisors member Betsey] Stevenson said that several studies suggest paid sick and parental leave had improved workplaces across the country without harming these firms’ economic output,” the Washington Post adds. “Connecticut adopted a paid leave policy two years ago; two-thirds of employers recently reported they had experienced little or no negative effects, while three-quarters of them expressed support for the policy.”

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