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Is paid leave on Dec. 26 just one step in the right direction?
President Barack Obama issued an executive order Dec. 5 that gave federal employees who are not deemed essential paid time off on Dec. 26 - the day after Christmas. It's a move that's been lauded by government workers. In fact, many were petitioning for a holiday well before Obama's order took effect, according to The Washington Post. The White House Petition stated that many federal employees struggled in recent years due to pay freezes and furloughs and that the paid holiday would be a beneficial morale booster.
Other presidents have issued time off during the holiday season, too. The petition noted that President George W. Bush issued half days and full days off in 2001, 2002, 2003, 2007 and 2008, according to The Washington Post.
Another paid time off debate
Issuing paid time off fits squarely into another one of the policies pushed by the Obama administration in recent times. The U.S. Department of Labor released a video in late September that highlighted the U.S.' position as the only developed nation that does not issue paid maternity leave. The video compares two pregnant women identical in nearly every regard except that one is from Germany and the other the U.S. The German woman receives 14 weeks of paid maternity leave whereas the American gets no time. The video then goes on to state that America isn't just the only developed nation without paid maternity leave - it's one of the only nations in the world without the benefit.
According to The Huffington Post, the U.S. is thrown together with Papua New Guinea, Swaziland and Lesotho as failing to mandate any maternity leave whatsoever. Reportedly, most developed nations issue at least three months of paid leave. Some countries - including France, Brazil, Australia, Spain, the U.K. and others - even issue paternity leave, which applies to fathers.
Is paid maternity leave good for business?
Failing to issue paid maternity leave can be a deal-breaker for a high number of women. The news source explained that attrition for female employees at Google fell by half after the tech company lengthened paid maternity leave to five months instead of three. Moreover, some business professionals state this is a better long-term investments for companies in general because replacing an employee can cost anywhere between 50 percent and 200 percent of a worker's salary.
The U.S. Department of Labor noted that around 60 percent of workers in the country are offered unpaid job-protected leave to care for a newborn or newly adopted child under the Family and Medical Leave Act. However, this may not be enough. Around $500 million has been awarded to Massachusetts, Montana, Rhode Island and the District of Columbia to fund studies regarding how realistic it may be to mandate paid maternity leave on a state level.
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