U.S. President Barack Obama will call on Congress to pass a bill that would give all U.S. workers up to seven paid sick days a year, and ask for $2 billion to create an incentive fund aimed at encouraging cities and states to create family and medical leave programs.
In addition, the president will announce Thursday that he is directing federal agencies to give workers who give birth to or adopt a child up to six weeks of paid leave.
The new initiatives were announced by Valerie Jarrett, a senior advisor to President Obama and chair of the White House Council on Women and Girls. She announced that, in addition to asking Congress to pass the Healthy Families Act, the administration will be calling on U.S. cities and states to pass similar laws.
“The president intends to ensure that the federal government is a model employer,” Jarrett wrote. “We’ll have the most skilled and productive work force possible as a result.”
Jarrett added that 43 million U.S. workers have no access to paid sick leave, and also flags up the fact that the U.S. is the only developed country in the world to not offer workers statutory paid maternity leave.
The legislative proposal is modeled on a bill by Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., and Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash, which would give employees at companies that have at least 15 workers the right to earn one hour of paid sick leave, to care for themselves or a sick family member, for every 30 hours worked, up to 56 hours per year, USA Today reports.
Betsey Stevenson, a member of the Council of Economic Advisers, told reporters Wednesday that several studies suggest that paid sick and parental leave had improved workplaces across the country without harming economic output, the Washington Post reported.
The administration's plans are likely to face opposition in a Republican-dominated Congress, the New York Times reports. GOP lawmakers have been focused on restricting spending, and have opposed Obama's initiatives to increase workers' pay and benefits, the paper adds.