On Thursday, the president announced that he is directing federal agencies to provide their employees with six weeks of paid leave after the birth or adoption of a child. Changing federal agencies’ employment practices requires approval from Congress, but the president will sign a memorandum that mandates federal agencies to do so if Congress doesn’t take action on the matter, according to plans outlined by the White House.
"The truth is, 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," Valerie Jarrett, the president's senior adviser, wrote in a posting on the employment network LinkedIn on Wednesday.
The announcement is meant to generate build up to the 2015 State of the Union Address, in which President Obama is expected to urge Congress to pass a bill that would allow workers to earn up to seven paid sick days per year, according to the New York Times.
Under the Family and Medical Leave Act, employers are currently required to give most employees up to 12 weeks of unpaid parental or sick leave without the risk of losing their jobs. However, employers are not required to pay employers for that leave.
A 2009 analysis by the Bureau of Labor Statistics found that 39 percent of private-sector workers do not receive paid sick leave, and that jumps to nearly 80 percent among low-wage workers.
Debate over paid sick leave policies has sprung up in several states in recent years. In November, Massachusetts voters approved a ballot measure that will require that companies with 11 or more employees offer all part- and full-time employees with paid sick days. Massachusetts employers can cap sick pay at 40 hours per year, but they must let employees carry unused leave forward over calendar years.
Connecticut and Massachusetts are the only states requiring employers to offer paid sick leave. California and a couple of other states have passed paid family leave laws.
Some small-business owners have fought such measures, saying such mandated paid leave encourages employees to abuse the system and costs them money.
Goran Streng, owner of Tango Contemporary Café in Honolulu, said requiring his 25-employee business to provide paid sick leave would force him to raise his prices.
“It’s a very tight margin,” Streng told local news station KHON2. “Any little thing is going to make a difference. It’s just like the minimum wage. There’s that ripple effect to everything.”
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