President Obama made sweeping moves on Thursday to help more Americans access paid time off to care for their families.
The president signed an executive order to give federal employees up to six weeks of paid family leave after the birth, adoption, or foster placement of a new child.
The president will call for new funding to help states and municipalities pass their own paid leave laws, which some have already done.
He will also urge Congress to pass the Healthy Families Act, which would let workers earn up to seven days of paid sick leave per year, as well as new legislation that would give workers an additional six weeks of paid time off.
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Announcing the new initiatives in a post on LinkedIn, senior advisor Valerie Jarrett said that family leave is “a worker’s right, not a privilege,” and that “the success and productivity of our workers is inextricably tied to their ability to care for their families and maintain a stable life at home.”
More than 40 million Americans have no access to paid sick leave, and the United States is alone among developed nations in offering no paid maternity or paternity leave.
The burdens of caring for a sick child fall most heavily on women, especially low-income women who are less likely to have the workplace benefits needed to care for a family.
The six weeks of paid leave mandated by the new executive order will be an advance on the paid sick leave that employees already accrue, so it would have to be paid back over time.
“Working families need and deserve the economic security of earning paid sick days so that moms and dads can care for a sick child without sacrificing a day’s pay or losing their job altogether,” said Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) and Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) in a joint statement commending the president’s actions. “Look no further than this season’s worse-than-expected flu outbreak to show why those who are sick should not be at work.”