As part of his State of the Union address on Tuesday, President Barack Obama called on Congress to pass legislation that would give “every worker in America the opportunity to earn seven days of paid sick leave.”
“The challenge of balancing work and family has grown as families have shifted so that today in most families all parents work and all parents contribute to caregiving,” the White House said in a press release. As a result, the Obama Administration has asked Congress to pass proposals that would allocate more than $2 billion in new funds to encourage states to develop paid family and medical leave, and allow workers to accrue more paid sick time. Obama also plans on signing a presidential memorandum directing federal agencies to advance up to six weeks of paid sick leave for parents with a new child, according to the release.
White House Advisor Valerie Jarrett went into further detail about the Healthy Families Act on LinkedIn.
“In many developed countries, [paid leave] is a given,” Time noted. “Not so in the United States. Only 12% of American workers receive paid family leave, and only 61% have paid sick leave, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.”
“As of 2013, the US was one of only eight countries (and the only high-income country) that offered no paid maternity leave, according to the New York Times,” Vox notes. “And a 2010 book that studied 190 nations’ laws found that 163 guarantee paid sick leave—the US, of course, was not one of them.”
Will paid leave be bad for business? “Preliminary evidence suggests that generous paid-leave programs in states like California have had a positive economic impact, thanks to the stability they provide,” Fast Company reports.
Indeed, “[Council of Economic Advisers member Betsey] Stevenson said several studies suggest paid sick and parental leave had improved workplaces across the country without harming… economic output,” the Washington Post adds. “Connecticut adopted a paid leave policy two years ago; two-thirds of employers recently reported they had experienced little or no negative effects, while three-quarters of them expressed support for the policy.”
Among voters, this is not a partisan issue according to some recent data. The Washington Post on Wednesday published the results of a likely-voter poll that found broad support for paid sick leave, even across party lines. According to the poll, large majorities of respondents who identified as Democrats (94%) and Independents (80%) said they believed stronger sick leave policies would be “good for our nation.” Even a majority (65%) of voters who identified as Republicans said they agreed that paid sick leave would benefit America.