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Obama to push for new paid leave policies for federal workers

Obama to give federal employees maternity and paternity leave

President Obama plans to sign a memorandum ordering that federal employees have access to at least six weeks of paid leave when a new child arrives in their family, while also urging Congress to extend greater family leave benefits to their own workers and to millions of other Americans.

Obama will call on lawmakers to pass a law allowing Americans to earn up to seven days a year of paid sick time, senior advisor Valerie Jarrett announced Wednesday afternoon.

About 43 million private sector employees have no form of paid sick leave, and only California, New Jersey and Rhode Island offer paid family and medical leave, Jarrett wrote in a post on LinkedIn.

“The United States remains the only developed country in the world that does not offer paid maternity leave,” she wrote.

Obama is expected to promote the plan Thursday as he travels to Baltimore to meet with Democratic lawmakers. He will call on Congress to pass the Healthy Families Act, which would allow millions of workers to get seven days of paid sick time, and urge states and cities to pass similar measures, Jarrett said.

The president was inspired to propose the new initiatives by thousands of letters from working parents, she said, noting in particular a recent one from a mother of two in Maryland.

A full-time employee raising a family, the woman said she often felt like she was in a “no-win situation,” Jarrett wrote.

The Healthy Families Act would require employers with 15 or more employees to allow them to earn up to seven days of paid leave, or at least one hour of paid sick time for every 30 hours worked. Under the law, the time could be used for personal medical care, to care for children or other relatives, or to deal with medical or legal issues related to domestic abuse.

The Obama administration has called on Congress to pass the law before, with little impact. It first endorsed the bill in 2009, shortly after it was introduced by Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.). Though Democratic lawmakers have continued to push for the legislation, the issue has not been a top priority for the president.

Obama is also expected to lay out a new proposal to encourage states to set up paid leave programs. The plan would provide money from the Department of Labor to pay for studies needed to determine the optimal policies, according to Jarrett.

In an effort to lead by example, Obama will order six weeks of paid leave for families with new children and propose that Congress do the same for its employees.

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