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Statement from Ann O'Leary: Paid Sick and Family Leave Benefits Our Workers and Our Country



Paid Sick and Family Leave Benefits Our Workers and Our Country

Statement from Ann O’Leary, vice-president and director of Children & Families program at Next Generation

Today, President Obama laid the ground work for the creation of paid family leave in the United States by signing a Presidential Memorandum ensuring that all federal employees will be able to use six weeks of paid time off when they have a baby. He also outlined a plan to help more states create paid family leave programs; encouraged states and localities to pass paid sick days legislation; and called on Congress to pass the Healthy Families Act, federal legislation that would require employers with 15 or more employees to offer paid sick leave benefits. 

I applaud President Obama’s strong stand, as well as the leadership of Secretary Tom Perez, who has been pushing for the United States to #LeadOnLeave. The United States is one of only a handful of countries that offers no paid leave for new parents and no paid sick days. Today’s announcement from the federal government—our nation’s largest employer—should spur action throughout the country and lead to passage of the Healthy Families Act, as well as a national paid family leave program, such as the FAMILY Act.

We are proud that California has been on the forefront of this movement, and the California Work and Family Coalition, now housed at Next Generation, has been leading the way. In 2002, California became the first state to pass a Paid Family Leave law. Since its enactment in 2004, our Paid Family Leave program has helped almost two million Californians take up to six weeks of paid leave to care for newborns, adopted or foster children, and sick family members.

In 2014, California became the largest state (and only the second state) to require all employers to offer paid sick days.  Starting in July 2015, all employers in California must provide at least three paid sick days to employees; this will benefit over 6.5 million workers who now will be able to take time to care for themselves or family members who fall ill.

Paid leave is a critical issue for workers, especially to working parents and single mothers. Without paid leave, many workers are forced to choose between their income and their loved ones—a terrible choice that harms individuals, families, and communities, and perpetuates a cycle of poverty.

But passage of legislation is not enough. While we passed Paid Family Leave a decade ago, only one-third of Californians are aware of the benefits; awareness has actually declined in the past three years, especially among Hispanics and low-income workers. We must do more.

It’s time our country’s leaders take a stand in favor of paid leave benefits for all workers, in order to help secure a brighter future for our country.  Years of research have shown that workers who take paid leave to bond with a new child or care for a seriously ill family member report far better economic, social and health-related outcomes than those who don’t have access to those benefits.  And employers have reported no negative impact from paid leave; on the contrary, paid leave benefits typically reduce turnover and improve employee satisfaction.

We look forward to Congress passing the Healthy Families Act, and encourage our nation’s leaders to set a national paid leave standard that brings our nation into the 21st century.


About Next Generation

Next Generation promotes solutions to two of the biggest challenges confronting the next generation of Americans:  The risk of dangerous climate change, and the threat of diminished prospects for children and families. Through the use of non-partisan research, policy development, and strategic communications, we identify strategies that help deploy clean, advanced energy technologies; we also work to ensure a level playing field from which today’s kids can build a brighter future. 

Learn more at and on Twitter @nextgen_USA.

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