The White House on Thursday encouraged federal agencies to expand access to family and medical leave opportunities, a move President Biden will tout in his speech this afternoon to honor the 30th anniversary of the Family and Medical Leave Act.
The plan includes several measures the White House said will "advance women’s economic security" beyond the Family Medical Leave Act, which provides eligible workers to take 12 weeks unpaid leave to care for a newborn child or family member, or to recover from an illness. Federal agencies were directed to expand this unpaid leave to employees within the first year of employment.
Workers whose family is called to active duty, or need time to grieve the loss of a family member, will qualify for unpaid leave under the new White House plan.
"Across the country, millions of workers still face impossible choices between keeping a paycheck and caring for their family or themselves," the White House said Thursday. "This is especially true for women, who shoulder disproportionate caregiving responsibilities, with real consequences for their ability to participate in the labor force and support their families over the course of their lives."
Under the plan, the Department of Defense will eliminate its distinction between primary and secondary caregivers as it qualifies all active-duty military members for 12-week paid parental leave.
The White House also directed the Office of Personnel Management to provide recommendations for "safe leave," which covers employees who face or are recovering from domestic violence.
Senior staff at the White House and Department of Labor met with elected state leaders Wednesday to discuss their efforts to expand paid leave at the local level.
"The Biden-Harris Administration continues to support a national paid family and medical leave program for families across the country and applauds states that have made significant progress in advancing paid leave," a White House press release stated Wednesday.
Thirteen states have passed paid family and medical leave laws, according to the Bipartisan Policy Center. One in four American workers have access to paid family leave, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Rep. Stephanie Bice, R-Okla., and Rep. Chrissy Houlahan, D-Pa., announced their intention to rally support in the new Congress for a national paid family leave plan, which will be debated this month by a Bipartisan Paid Family Leave Working Group made up of three Republicans and three Democrats.