Currently, about 300,000 employees of federal contractors receive no paid leave at all.
“Right now, we are the only advanced nation on Earth that does not guarantee paid maternity leave,” Obama said, during a speech in Boston. “Now, for the men in the audience in particular, think about that. We wouldn’t even go to work if we had to carry around somebody for nine months. The human race would evaporate.”
By unveiling the order on Labor Day, Obama sought to continue the national conversation on employee benefits – stressing that approximately 44 million U.S. private sector workers don’t receive any paid sick leave. On Monday, the president also called on Congress to enact legislation requiring more U.S. businesses to provide paid leave as a benefit. “Unfortunately, only Congress has the power to give this security to all Americans,” Obama said. “But where I can act, I will.”
In its related statements this week, the White House did not specify the added cost to companies that the new executive order will create. Officials at the U.S. Labor Department, though, maintain the extra costs would be offset by lower attrition rates and happier, more loyal employees. Opponents of the president’s order contend the market, not the government, should dictate employment policies.
Obama’s executive order is the latest in a series of measures designed to expand paid leave. In January, Obama directed the government to offer up to six weeks of paid sick leave for the birth or adoption of a child.