Economy

The U.S. Is The Only Developed Country Without Paid Sick Days. Obama Is Calling For That To Change.

CREDIT: AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin

On Thursday, President Obama is going to call for the passage of the Healthy Families Act, a bill that would require most employers to give workers paid sick leave.

The legislation calls for businesses with 15 or more employees to let them accrue up to seven paid sick days a year to care for themselves or a family member who falls ill. On a call with press, adviser Valerie Jarrett said the White House estimates that it would give 43 million workers access to leave who don’t already have it. The leave could also be used by victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking to recover or seek assistance. Obama will also urge states and local governments to pass sick leave laws of their own.

The president will also sign a memorandum that will ensure federal employees get at least six weeks of paid sick leave for the arrival of a new child and propose that Congress pass legislation to give them six weeks of paid administrative leave.

The United States is the only developed country that doesn’t have a national requirement that workers get access to paid sick leave. The lack of a law leaves nearly 40 percent of Americans without access to leave. But progress has been made at the state and local level: three states — California, Connecticut, and Massachusetts — and 16 cities have passed paid sick leave legislation, covering millions of workers.

Obama will also announce a plan to help more states create paid family leave programs through $2.2 billion in mandatory funding in his upcoming budget and $35 million in grants for states that are building the infrastructure to launch programs. The Department of Labor has already awarded $500,000 to Massachusetts, Montana, Rhode Island, and Washington, DC to fund studies on the feasibility of implementing paid leave, and as part of Obama’s announcement the department will offer another $1 million to six to ten more states and municipalities. The U.S. is one of just three countries that doesn’t require paid maternity leave, and 70 others also require paid paternity leave, although three states have passed paid family leave programs.

The president’s announcement comes after the White House Summit on Working Families, convened in June, at which he also called for paid family leave, universal preschool, job flexibility, and other policies meant to make it easier for Americans to balance work and family.