President Obama in his attempt to address some of the backward policies relating to the workplace in the United States has started the conversation by inviting business leaders and workers to a White House Summit on Working Families.
He stated that part of his top priority is the rebuilding of an economy where everyone can participate and equally has the same chance of succeeding and getting ahead.
The President bemoaned the fact that today many jobs failed to offer adequate leave for an employee to take care of a parent who is sick or a newly born baby.
He noted that only three countries in the world that do not provide paid maternity leave and unfortunately United States was one of them.
He said that although a few states acting on their own have made attempt to give workers paid family leave this was not sufficient as all Americans should have access to this type of benefit and moreover be afforded the opportunity to care for a family member in need.
He further lamented the dire strait that a family with children have to contend with.
“Most working families I know can’t afford thousands a year for childcare, but often that’s what it costs. That leaves parents scrambling just to make sure their kids are safe while they’re at work – forget about giving them the high-quality early childhood education that helps kids succeed in life,” he declared.
President Obama further added that the issue of flexibility was a vexed one and needed to be addressed. He posited the view that there are workers who would like to take time off to attend a parent-teacher conference or to work from home when a loved one falls sick but were unable to do so as there are no provisions for that for the most part at the workplace. He also pointed out that studies have shown that flexibility can make workers more productive, reduce worker turnover and absenteeism. This he argued was not only good for business but makes workers happier.
In addition, the President said, ”At a time when women make up about half of America’s workforce, outdated workplace policies that make it harder for mothers to work hold our entire economy back. But these aren’t just problems for women. Men also care about who’s watching their kids. They’re rearranging their schedules to make it to soccer games and school plays. Lots of sons help care for aging parents. And plenty of fathers would love to be home for their new baby’s first weeks in the world.”
“In fact, in a new study, nearly half of all parents – women and men – report that they’ve said no to a job, not because they didn’t want it, but because it would be too hard on their families. When that many talented, hard-working people are forced to choose between work and family, something’s wrong. Other countries are making it easier for people to have both. We should too, if we want American businesses to compete and win in the global economy,” he continued.
The President underscored the point that family leave, childcare, and flexibility should be viewed as some of the basic needs of the workplace — not only bonuses.