|Obama calls for paid maternity leave
President Barack Obama said Monday that the United States should join the rest of the industrialized world and offer paid leave for mothers of newborns.
"Many women can't even get a paid day off to give birth -- now that's a pretty low bar,'' Obama said at the White House Summit on Working Families. "That, we should be able to take care of.''
The president is talking about paid maternity leave in the midst of an election campaign season focused in many respects on women voters, raising questions about how he would fund such a system. "If France can figure this out, we can figure this out,'' Obama said.
French women get 16 weeks of paid maternity leave, rising to 26 for the third child.
The White House Summit on Working Families he hosted has been months in the making, with several regional events leading up to it featuring administration officials. The White House devoted all its star power to the event -- and even a surprise appearance by a celebrity to echo Obama's criticism of "Mad Men'' policies in today's workplace. Christina Hendricks, who plays single mom Joan on a television dramatization of a 1960s ad firm, said, "In the 21st Century the only place for a story like Joan's should be on TV.''
While some companies offer paid family leave to attract workers, the 1993 Family Medical Leave Act only requires that employers provide unpaid leave for medical and family reasons.
Obama praised California, Rhode Island and New Jersey for creating a state benefit. But he has not endorsed legislation that would create a similar national system funded by a payroll tax, and he pledged in his 2008 presidential campaign not to raise taxes on families making under US$250,000 a year. --AP