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Working Families Summit FAQ

What was the Working Families Summit?

On June 23, 2014, the White House Council on Women and Girls, the Department of Labor (DOL), and the Center for American Progress (CAP) hosted The White House Summit on Working Families to focus on strengthening the nation’s workplaces to better support working families, boost businesses’ bottom lines, and ensure America’s global economic competitiveness in the coming decades.

What resulted from the summit?

  • The immediate result of the summit included a presidential memorandum signed by President Obama that establishes employees’ right to request scheduling flexibility without fear or retaliation. These requests can include part-time employment, personal sick leave and family care leave. Many of the provisions in the memorandum are tailored specifically to working women- mandating break times and privates spaces for nursing, sick leave in cases of domestic violence or sexual assault and on-site childcare or childcare subsidies.

The memorandum calls for three things: (1) federal agencies to review their workplace flexibility policies; (2) direct federal agencies to implement policies for federal employees to request flexible schedules without fear of retaliation; and (3) directs the Office of Personnel Management to create a new Workplace Flexibility Index, and calls for training employees and management on tools available to them.

  • Obama called on Congress to pass the languishing Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, which was introduced in May 2013, to expand workplace accommodations. While discrimination against pregnant women has been illegal under federal law for almost 36 years, advocates say that law is full of loopholes and in need of overhaul.
  • Obama also directed that Labor Secretary Thomas Perez allocate $25 million towards technical training grants for low-income individuals training for in-demand industries. The contention is that low-income persons struggle to cover child care costs while attending federally-funded job training or retraining programs. 

What was not addressed in the memorandum?

One topic notably absent from the memorandum is paid sick leave. This has been a hot topic given that the U.S. is the only developed country that does not require paid time off for illness. As a result, more than 40 million private-sector workers cannot get paid for days taken for recovery from sickness. More than two-thirds of low-paid food-service and childcare workers have no paid sick leave, and those jobs are dominated by women.

Obama did vocalize his dissatisfaction with the current state of affairs. While the White House currently provides six weeks of paid sick leave a year to its staffers, the President cannot extend the same benefits to federal employees without the support of Congress. In the meantime, Obama announced the creation of a fund for five states to research the implementation of paid sick leave.

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