It's time for America to lose its status as the only industrialized country where new mothers don't get a single day of paid leave, President Obama says. "Many women can't even get a paid day off to give birth—now that's a pretty low bar," he said at a White House summit yesterday. "That, we should be able to take care of." The president didn't give any details on how he would fund a paid maternity leave system, but he said, "If France can figure this out, so can we," reports the AP, which notes Obama has already used his authority to bring in six weeks of paid leave for White House workers who have a baby or need to care for a sick family member, but would need congressional action to award paid leave to other federal workers.
The president says it's time to bring in paid family leave, but he has no proposal on the table yet, largely because of funding difficulties, the Washington Post finds. The president promised in 2008 not to raise taxes on families making under $250,000 per year, and it would hard not to break that promise if funding had to be found for a national leave program expected to cost around $20 billion per year. (One approach would up workers' and companies' payroll tax contributions by 0.2 percentage points, or $100 on a $50,000 salary.) Federal action, however, appears to be the only way to get paid maternity leave for all workers: Only three states—California, Rhode Island, and New Jersey—currently offer paid leave, and while some employers offer paid family leave, only 12% of workers nationwide have access to such programs, and they tend to be higher-paid employees.