President Obama announced his intention to sign a Presidential Memorandum “directing agencies to advance up to six weeks of paid sick leave for parents with a new child,” and to grant up to seven paid sick days to federal workers. The President also is taking action to encourage state and local governments to do the same.

The sick day proposal is modeled on a bill called The Healthy Families Act, championed by Rep. Rosa DeLauro and Sen. Patty Murray. The move also would allow new parents up to six weeks of paid parental leave. Currently, the United States remains the only developed country in the world that does not offer paid maternity leave.

President Obama’s action has been extremely well received by the feminist movement.

Rep. Carolyn Maloney, the leading sponsor in the House for over a dozen years of the Federal Employees Paid Parental Leave Act, applauded the President Obama’s action. “The ability to take time off for the birth of a child or to care for a loved one is a right all Americans should enjoy. I look forward to working with the President to ensure that no American must choose between a paycheck and a strong and healthy family,” Rep. Maloney.

Debra L. Ness, President of the National Partnership for Women and Families called this initiative “the boldest action in support of family friendly workplace policies we have seen in a generation,” in a statement released yesterday. “They will establish new workplace standards that benefit millions of people, provide more support to help states establish their own paid leave policies, and send Congress a clear call to action to support America’s working families,” she continued.

“At last, after decades of inaction, finally we have real national progress for paid family medical leave,” said Eleanor Smeal, President of the Feminist Majority Foundation. “President Obama’s leadership, in taking this important step, must be matched by Congressional action. Woman deserve paid family medical leave- it’s long overdue.”

Sixty percent of women with children under the age of five participate in the labor force, according to a White House fact sheet. Furthermore, today in the US, 48 percent of women workers have not one day of paid sick leave. Without paid sick leave, many of these workers choose to go to work sick, putting their coworkers and customers at risk of illness. If their child is sick, parents are forced to take an unpaid day off work, losing much needed income and potentially threatening his or her job.

The President hopes to outline a new plan to help more states create similar paid leave programs. Currently, California, New Jersey, and Rhode Island have launched paid leave plans. The move is the latest in a series of actions to strengthen working families, including the Family and Medical Insurance Leave Act (FAMILY Act) introduced in 2013.

Media Resources: Maloney’s Statement 1/14/15; National Partnership for Women and Families Newsroom 1/14/15; The White House, 1/14/15; The Feminist Majority Foundation, 10/28/13, 12/12/13, 6/19/14, 6/24/14.

 

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