President Obama gave the movement for greater access to paid family leave a big boost Thursday when he took executive action to provide federal workers with at least six weeks paid leave annually after a new child arrives or to care for ill family members. He’s also calling on Congress to pass legislation providing them an additional six weeks.
“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,” the memorandum reads. “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.”
Obama signed the memorandum at a roundtable with working women in Baltimore, where he also pushed Congress to pass the Healthy Families Act, a measure that would give private sector workers up to seven days of paid leave annually when they or a family member have medical needs.
Under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), workers may take up to 12 weeks of unpaid time off to care for a new child, recover from an illness or care for a sick family member without losing their job. For many Americans, however, unpaid leave is unaffordable.
California, New Jersey and Rhode Island have begun programs offering paid family and medical leave. Obama called on Congress to provide funding to help states and cities develop paid family leave programs.
On Tuesday, lawmakers in both the U.S. House and Senate introduced bills to give federal employees a 3.8 percent pay raise.
“After being treated like a punching bag for years by too many members of Congress, it is no wonder that the federal employee viewpoint survey is showing decreasing workplace morale,” said NFFE-IAM National President Bill Dougan. “Now more than ever, we genuinely hope members of Congress understand the importance of addressing the dwindling morale of federal employees. Raising morale, through legislation like the FAIR Act, will allow the government to recruit and retain top-tier candidates, which results in better services to the citizens of our country.”