President Barack Obama is calling for a paid family leave policy, although he has not offered a specific proposal. Still, he thinks countries such as France have it right.

President Barack Obama walks off stage after speaking at the White House Summit on Working Families, Monday, June 23, 2014, in Washington. Obama is encouraging more employers to adopt family-friendly policies, part of a broader effort to convince employers that providing more flexibility is good for business as well as workers. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

“Twenty-first century families deserve a 21st Century workplace,” Obama said speaking at the White House Summit on Working Families. “Our economy demands it because it’s going to help us compete. It’s going to help us lead. That means paid family leave, especially paid parental leave.”

Under the existing family and medical leave act, employers cannot fire an employee for taking up to 12 weeks offtime off work for an illness or family illness. However, the law does not require that the employee be compensated for that time off.

Many European countries required that compensation during the time office, Obama said.

“There is only one developed country in the world that does not offer paid maternity leave,” Obama said. “That is us. That is not the list you want to be on by your lonesome, because all Americans should be able to care for their families.”

He later added, “Other countries know how to do this. If France can figure this out, we can figure this out.”

California, Rhode Island and New Jersey provide paid medical leave. Connecticut and New York City required paid sick days.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) proposed a bill to take the California, New Jersey and Rhode Island policy nationwide.
Asked about the matter earlier during the press briefing, White House press secretary Josh Earnest said the Obama administration would support a federal law, though it is not proposing one at this time. Earnest added that the president supports efforts by states and cities, as well as individual employers that have adopted paid leave policies.

Noting that Congress hasn’t acted, Obama told the crowd, “Don’t boo, vote.”

“As long as Congress refuses to act, we’re going to need you to raise your voice,” the president said.

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