President Obama dealt another blow to congressional Republicans with executive action to expand sick leave for federal workers and a call for increased paid sick leave for all American workers.
Now more than ever, our Nation’s economic success rests on our ability to empower our citizens to choose jobs that best utilize their talents and interests. All employers, including the Federal Government, should support parents to ensure they can both contribute fully in the workplace and also meet the needs of their families. The availability of paid maternity leave, for example, has been shown to increase the likelihood that mothers return to their jobs following the birth of a child, and paid maternity and paternity leave has been shown to improve the health and development outcomes of the infant. In addition, it is critically important for parents and their newborn or newly adopted child to have the opportunity to form strong family attachments and relationships.
Men and women both need time to care for their families and should have access to workplace flexibilities that help them succeed at work and at home. Offering family leave and other workplace flexibilities to parents can help achieve the goals of recruiting and retaining talent, lowering costly worker turnover, increasing employee engagement, boosting employee morale, and ensuring a diverse and inclusive workforce. Yet, the United States lags behind almost every other country in
ensuring some form of paid parental leave to its Federal workforce; we are the only developed country in the world without it.
My memorandum of June 23, 2014 (Enhancing Workplace Flexibilities and Work-Life Programs), directs the heads of executive departments and agencies (agencies) to more fully utilize workplace flexibilities and work-life programs to promote recruitment, retention, employee engagement, and workforce productivity. My Administration fully supports efforts to align the Federal Government with the parental leave policies of leading private sector companies and other industrialized countries, and will continue to take administrative steps to modernize leave policies to better support Federal employees.
The action that the president took today builds on the memo that he signed last summer by giving federal employees six weeks of paid sick leave for the birth of a child. The president will also ask Congress to pass a bill that would give federal employees six more weeks of parental leave. Obama is also going to ask Congress to pass the Healthy Families Act, which would allow workers in businesses with fifteen or more employees to earn up to seven paid sick days a year.
It has been 22 years since the Family and Medical Leave Act was passed. Over the last two decades, the juggling act between work and family has become even more difficult for American workers. Both parents are working in more than sixty percent of American households. More than 60% of women with children under the age of five are working. Republicans portray themselves as the pro-family party, but they oppose measures that would benefit American families.
Politically, President Obama is challenging Republicans to walk the walk. Since the November election, the president has systematically knocked congressional Republicans back on their heels through a series of executive actions. The president is challenging Republicans to oppose legislation that would help working families.
The president has opened up a new front in his battle with the Republican controlled congress that is certain to put Speaker of the House John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader McConnell on the defensive.
Mr. Easley is the founder/managing editor and Senior White House and Congressional correspondent for PoliticusUSA.Jason has a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science. His graduate work focused on public policy, with a specialization in social reform movements.
Awards and Professional Memberships
Member of the Society of Professional Journalists and The American Political Science Association