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New policy gives federal workers six weeks of paid parental leave

A newborn baby lies in bed in a hospital maternity ward.
A newborn baby lies in bed in a hospital maternity ward.
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A memorandum that President Obama is expected to sign would give federal government employees access to at least six weeks of paid maternity or paternity leave. As he travels to Baltimore today to speak to Democratic lawmakers, Mr. Obama is also expected to urge Congress to adopt the Healthy Families Act, which would give Americans seven paid sick days every year. The White House says that 43 million Americans working in the private sector don’t have a single day of paid sick leave, and that expanding paid leave would make U.S. businesses more competitive and would increase productivity.

Critics are skeptical that the new policies will actually help improve work conditions. They argue that extending paid parental leave will drive up the cost of hiring women and make employers less likely to hire them.

What kind of challenges might this new policy present to employers and employees? Is this the right move for the federal government to make? Will there be an effect on the number of women in the workforce?


Ann O'Leary, Vice President & Director of the Children and Families Program at The Center for the Next Generation, a national and California think tank that works on children and family policy issues

Kay Hymowitz, William E. Simon Fellow at the Manhattan Institute in New York. She is the author of four books and writes extensively on childhood, family issues, poverty, and cultural change in America.