Encouraging Progress on Paid Leave

All around the country this morning, working parents made some heart-wrenching decisions. When his little boy woke up with the sniffles, a father had to choose between taking him to the doctor and losing a day's pay. When she got the phone call that her father fell down the stairs in his home, a daughter had to risk getting fired so she could be with him in the hospital.

Too many Americans have to weigh all these decisions at once, with nearly seven million Americans providing care for both their children and elderly loved ones. Of all the tough decisions in life, choosing between the job you need and the family you love should not be one of them.

The United States is one of the few nations on the planet where paid family and medical leave or earned sick time is not the law of the land. In fact, only 12 percent of private-sector workers have access to paid family leave through their employers. Access to paid leave is particularly low among Hispanics, African Americans, and low-wage workers.

Fortunately, however, we have seen remarkable progress outside of Washington, where innovative state and local officials are working hard to design paid leave policies for their own people. As I travel around the country, I am inspired by leaders who know that offering paid leave - whether sick time or family leave -isn't just the right thing to do, it's essential to building an economy that works for everyone.

That's why I am proud to announce that the Department of Labor Women's Bureau is awarding $1.55 million in grants to research and analyze how paid family and medical leave programs can be developed and implemented across the country. The grant funding, triple what we invested in 2014, will support eight grantees at the state and municipal level - where forward-thinking leaders have recognized that working people shouldn't have to win the "boss lottery" to have access to paid leave. These funds will help further our understanding of the issue and inform the design of programs that work for our families and the economy.

I believe the passage of a national paid family and medical leave law is not a question of if, but when. But as is so often the case on important public policy issues, we need states and localities to be the incubators of innovation. It's their efforts, which we're funding today, that will pave the way for national reform. These grants will get us closer to a future where working moms and dads can focus on what really matters: time with their families.

Follow Secretary Perez on Twitter and Instagram as @LaborSec.