The United States is one of three countries in the world that doesn’t mandate paid maternity leave for its workers. In his weekly address last week, President Barack Obama commented on the issue, stressing that he would like to see this changed in the future.
“A few states have acted on their own to give workers paid family leave, but this should be available to everyone, because all Americans should be able to afford to care for a family member in need.”
California, Rhode Island, and New Jersey have paid maternity leave, but the 1993 Family Medical Leave Act only requires that employers provide unpaid leave for medical and family reasons.
A national payroll tax, and a federal program that enforces important workplace protections and benefits like childcare, flexible schedules, paid paternity and maternity leave, and anti-discrimination against pregnant women, seems to be the next step. President Obama’s adviser, Valerie Jarret, commented on how the program would be funded:
“Cost is an issue for any federal program and we need to make sure we do this in a way where we are not raising taxes on middle-class families. But we also know what a good investment in our workforce it would be if they had paid leave, and that investment will pay great returns.”
Mandating paid maternity leave is both crucial and long overdue. President Obama has even emphasized its importance: he instituted a six-week paid leave for all White House employees.
The public agrees with President Obama, too, as 86 percent of Democrats and 73 percent percent of Republicans support paid maternity leave.
It seems everyone is on board with the idea of parents taking time off to spend time with their families. It’s critical for families to have the ability to welcome a new child without fear of extra financial burdens.
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