WASHINGTON (AP) â€” Saying too many Americans must make the potentially expensive choice between working and caring for a loved one, President Clinton today took steps to help more workers take paid leave to handle family responsibilities.
In his weekly radio address, Clinton announced new regulations by the Labor Department that would allow states to provide paid leave after the birth or adoption of a child. He also announced a new regulation, effective June 20, that allows federal employees to use up to 12 weeks of sick leave to care for a seriously ill family member.
Clinton said he sought the changes because many workers cannot afford to take time off without pay as stipulated under the 1993 Family and Medical Leave Act, the first bill he signed as president.
He noted that 20 million people have taken advantage of the law to care for a newborn or a sick relative, and said more might do so if they didn't have to lose pay.
Fifteen states are considering legislation to provide paid leave through means such as unemployment insurance, and the president said he hopes more states will join them.
``I believe those which do can provide this new benefit while still preserving the fiscal soundness of their unemployment insurance programs,'' Clinton said. ``The first few months with a newborn are precious ones, and no parent should have to miss them.''
Under the Labor Department regulations, states would have the option to amend unemployment compensation systems to provide paid leave for new parents. States that do opt to offer paid leave would receive help from federal labor officials in assessing the long-term fiscal impact of that decision.
Clinton cited a federal study that found the number of married mothers working outside the home has increased from 38 percent to 68 percent over the last 30 years, and the average parent has 22 fewer hours per week at home compared with a generation ago.
``People are working more jobs and longer hours than ever before, forcing many of them to make the unacceptable choice between being good workers and the best parents or caregivers,'' Clinton said. ``We also know many of them are working weekends or on the night shift, times they've traditionally spent at home caring for their families.''
Some state unemployment insurance programs are financially flush because the booming economy has put more people to work than at any time in 30 years. But employers, who provide those funds, oppose using the moneys for purposes other than unemployment.
Clinton said more families could be helped if Congress passed his plan to provide a $3,000 tax credit to families caring for an elderly relative, and his proposed expansion of family and medical level benefits to workers at small businesses.
``Our families still are our most valued treasures,'' he said. ``That's why I think no American should ever have to choose between the job they need and the parent or child they love. The actions we take today will help ensure that they won't have to make that choice.''