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White House pushes for paid sick, family leave

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in Compensation and Benefits,Human Resources

The Obama administration has unveiled a series of proposals to provide paid family leave for new parents and seven days of paid sick leave for all American workers.

Highlighted in President Obama’s Jan. 20 State of the Union address, the measures stand almost no chance of passage in a Republican-controlled Congress. However, Democrats hope debate on paid leave will spotlight differences between the two parties in the run-up to the 2016 elections.

“There are 43 million Americans who don’t get paid sick leave,” Obama said. “And that means that no matter how sick they are, or how sick a family member is, they may find themselves having to choose to be able to buy groceries or pay the rent, or look after themselves or their children.”

Obama called on Congress to pass the Healthy Families Act, legislation that would allow working Americans to earn up to seven days of paid sick leave per year. Acknowledging that chances of passing a federal law are slim, he urged cities and states to take up similar legislation.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 39% of private-sector workers lack paid sick-leave benefits.

The president proposed more than $2 billion in new funds to encourage states to develop their own paid family and medical leave programs, as California, New Jersey and Rhode Island have already done. The federal FMLA only provides for unpaid leave.

Obama announced that the Department of Labor will use $1 million in existing funds to help states and cities conduct feasibility studies on establishing their own paid family-leave initiatives.

On Jan. 14, Obama signed a Presidential Memorandum directing federal agencies to advance up to six weeks of paid leave to their employees who are new parents or must care for a sick family member. He called on Congress to pass legislation giving federal employees an additional six weeks of paid parental leave.

Democrats praised the proposals, while Republicans said they would slow job creation and cost too much.

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