On Thursday, January 15, 2015, President Obama called on Congress to pass the Healthy Families Act. If passed, the Healthy Families Act, as currently proposed, would require companies to give workers up to seven days of paid sick leave a year. The proposed Act would apply to companies that have at least 15 employees. Employees at those companies would earn one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked, up to 56 hours of paid sick time per year.
Obama also announced that he will take executive action to give at least six weeks of paid leave to federal employees after the birth or adoption of a child. Obama will grant the paid sick leave to federal employees of the executive branch through a presidential memorandum, a tool similar to an executive order used to direct federal agencies to implement a White House policy. The program will work by advancing unearned sick time to employees, and will cost $250 million a year to implement. The move is intended to encourage states and cities to implement similar paid sick leave policies.
Obama’s actions capitalize on the recent trend of state and local governments to pass workplace regulations on matters like minimum wage and paid leave even as such measures languish in Congress.
In the November elections, ballot measures on sick leave passed in Massachusetts; Trenton and Montclair in New Jersey; and Oakland, California. There are now three states – Massachusetts, California and Connecticut – and 16 cities that offer some form of paid sick leave. There are currently 43 million private-sector workers in the U.S. who do not have paid leave.
Obama believes that paid leave policies have an economic benefit for employers – that is, businesses with paid leave policies have greater productivity and higher corporate profits. Critics argue that legislatively mandated leave policies will result in employers off-setting the cost through decreased wages and/or increased prices passed on to the consumer.