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Obama's Labor secretary touts Germany's 12 months of paid time off for new parents

Thomas 'Tom' Perez, U.S. secretary of labor, speaks during an interview in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Thursday, Oct. 23, 2014. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has 'got his head in the sand' when it comes to the plight of minimum-wage earners in his state, Perez said. Bloomberg/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Labor Secretary Tom Perez on Wednesday praised Germany's policy of giving new parents a full year of paid time off from work, and suggested the U.S. should adopt similar policies.

Perez issued a statement from Germany, which he visited as part of his tour of Europe to explore "new models for workforce innovation."

Labor Secretary Tom Perez on Wednesday held up Germany as an example of a country that offers a generous paid leave package to new parents, and indicated the U.S. needs to follow suit. Bloomberg/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Perez described a man from Ohio, Jason Berning, who works in Germany and met his wife there. They have since started a family, and Perez said Berning "plans to stay in part because of Germany's paid leave policies."

He said Germany offers paid maternity leave for the six weeks before childbirth, and the following eight weeks after. Germany also gives new parents a full 12 months of paid time off, or as many as 14 if the couple shares the time off together.

Berning's wife Julia took off eight months, and Jason was home with Julie and his new child for the first two months, and then took off another two months almost a year later when Julia finally returned to work.

Perez said that when their second child is born, Julia will just take the mandatory maternity leave and then return to work, while Jason stays home.

"Jason will take one year of paid leave in order to be at home with his children," Perez said. "His employer understands the importance of retaining his talent, and that is why they're providing the flexibility that allows him to take this critical time off."

"As the only industrialized nation on the planet without a national paid leave policy, we are woefully behind the times," he concluded. "We've got to do better."

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