President Obama Says U.S. Should Have Paid Maternity Leave

News & Views | Gerren Keith Gaynor | 06/25/2014 | 09:00 AM EDT

President laments that America is the only developed country that doesn't pay new moms for leave at work

Women living in the U.S. should be able to get paid for maternity leave, President Barack Obama said during a White House Summit on Working Families.

The president spoke out against the domestic issue, highlighting how other industrialized countries 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," President Obama said. "That, we should be able to take care of."


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Mr. Obama is touting paid maternity in the midst of a midterm election campaign focused on women voters. He did not, however, detail just how he would fund such a system.


"If France can figure this out, we can figure this out," Obama said.


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.


The president praised California, Rhode Island and New Jersey for creating a state benefit. But according to the Associated Press, Obama 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 $250,000 a year.


Obama instituted six weeks of paid leave for White House staff when they have a child, get sick or injured or need to care for an ailing family member, using his authority to set his staff's compensation under the personnel code.


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However, he does not have the power to award paid leave to other federal workers without congressional action since they are covered under a different section of law. The White House has supported the goal of legislation introduced by lawmakers to change that, but it has stalled in Congress.


"There is only one developed country in the world that does not offer paid maternity leave, and that is us," Obama said. "And that is not the list you want to be on - on your lonesome. It's time to change that."

 (Photo: AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

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