Obama will push for paid family and sick leave

President will announce support for broadly popular policy today

Published January 15, 2015 2:25PM (EST)

                           (AP/Susan Walsh)
(AP/Susan Walsh)

President Barack Obama today will issue a directive requiring federal agencies to allow their workers up to six weeks of paid leave following the birth or adoption of a child. The president will also urge Congress to pass legislation ensuring all workers up to seven days of paid sick leave and encouraging states to expand paid family leave.

The New York Times reports that the president's proposal includes a $2 billion incentive fund that would help states fund paid leave for workers. The paper summarizes the forthcoming proposal:

The president needs congressional approval to require federal agencies to provide the six weeks of paid parental leave. But in the absence of that legislation, the president will sign a memorandum to mandate that agencies advance new mothers and fathers a six-week chunk of paid time off — a benefit that is now only discrentionary.


More than half of American workers are eligible for parental or sick leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act, which allows them to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid time off without losing their jobs. But employers are not required to pay their workers during leave, and often do not.

The plan, which Mr. Obama will include in his budget, would provide $2.2 billion in mandatory funding — not subject to annual congressional appropriations — to reimburse states that initiate paid leave programs, the White House said. The president will also request $35 million in grants to assist states working toward creating such programs.

Although the proposal stands little chance of passage in the GOP Congress, it provides Obama and Democrats the opportunity to associate themselves with broadly popular policies. And though paid leave faces long odds in Washington, the president will encourage states and localities to adopt it, the Times reports -- similar to how many states and localities have passed minimum wage increases in recent years, despite Congress' failure to act on Obama's proposal for a wage increase.

In 2011, Connecticut became the first state in the nation to pass a paid sick leave law. During his tight re-election campaign last year, Democratic Gov. Dannel Malloy made the law, which provides workers up to five days of paid sick leave a year, a centerpiece of his campaign. Following Malloy's narrow victory over a Republican challenger who opposed the law, progressives credited the law with helping push Malloy over the top.

By Luke Brinker

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Barack Obama Connecticut Dannel Malloy Minimum Wage Paid Family Leave Paid Sick Leave