Obama's New Push: Paid Family, Sick Leave

6 paid weeks off for new child, 7 paid sick days a year are immediate goals
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 15, 2015 9:43 AM CST
Obama's New Push: Paid Family, Sick Leave
President Barack Obama holds up a baby at a campaign event at Elm Street Middle School, Oct. 27, 2012 in Nashua, NH.   (AP Photo/Jim Cole)

One of the first steps President Obama took in 2015 was to propose free community college. Now he's expected to announce today that he'll direct federal agencies to offer employees up to six weeks of paid leave after the birth or adoption of a child, the New York Times reports. He'll also ask Congress to pass a bill that would let workers earn up to seven paid sick days a year, setting up a $2 billion incentive fund to assist states that set up family leave programs. The move was announced in a LinkedIn blog post last night by Senior Adviser Valerie Jarrett, who had this to say about the announcement venue: "This is the very first place we're breaking this news because you're in the best position to drive change," she writes to the professionals and companies that frequent the site.

More than 50% of American workers are eligible for up to 12 weeks of unpaid parental or sick leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act—but it's often economically challenging for families to go that long without a paycheck. In addition to the federal agency mandate, Obama will also be pushing for the Healthy Families Act so workers will receive up to seven paid sick days annually—a desirable upgrade for the 43 million private-sector workers in the US who lack such benefits, Jarrett points out; she adds that the US is also the only developed country that doesn't provide paid maternity leave. The Republican-controlled Congress won't likely jump on these proposals, especially with business groups expected to protest the paid sick leave bill, the Wall Street Journal notes, but in that case, the president would jump-start his efforts by reaching out to state and local governments instead. (More President Obama stories.)

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