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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release May 24, 1999
                             May 23, 1999

Today, in a commencement speech at Grambling State University, President Clinton will announce new steps to help workers meet their responsibilities to their jobs, and their more important responsibilities to their families. The President will put forward two new proposals to make leave more affordable for American workers. In addition, he will release a new report that examines the "time crunch" that parents increasingly feel as they struggle to balance their responsibilities at home and at work.

Working to Make Parental Leave More Affordable. A 1996 study by the Commission on Family and Medical Leave found that loss of wages was the most significant barrier to parents taking advantage of unpaid leave following the birth or adoption of a child. Today, President Clinton will direct the Secretary of Labor to propose new regulations and model state legislation to enable states to develop innovative ways of using the Unemployment Insurance (UI) system to support parents taking leave to care for a newborn or adopted child. Several States recently have asked the Administration whether they could use the UI system for this purpose consistent with federal law. The new regulations will authorize this expansion of the UI system, thereby allowing states that wish to use unemployment insurance to assist new parents to put their plans into effect.

Enabling Federal Workers to Take Paid Leave to Care for Sick Family Members. In an effort to set an example for all employers, President Clinton also today will direct the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) to revise its government-wide regulations to allow federal employees to use up to 12 weeks of accrued sick leave each year to care for a spouse, son, daughter, or parent with a "serious health condition," as that term is defined for the purpose of applying the Family and Medical Leave Act. Currently, the amount of sick leave that can be used to care for a family member who is ill is limited to 13 days each year for most federal employees. By enabling federal workers to use more of the sick leave they have earned, according to conditions established by the FMLA, this measure will remove a significant barrier to caring for an ill family member. The President also has directed the OPM to establish an Interagency Family Friendly Workplace Working Group to develop, promote, and evaluate federal family-friendly workplace initiatives. The President previously has taken other actions to ensure that federal government is a model employer, including: allowing federal employees to donate annual leave to other employees; expanding flexible family-friendly work arrangements, such as job sharing, career part-time employment, alternative work schedules, telecommuting, and satellite work locations; and directing improvements in the quality of federally sponsored child care.

A New Study on the Amount of Time Available for Families. The President will release a report by his Council of Economic Advisers (CEA) today that details the factors that have led to decreased amounts of time available for parents to spend with their children. The report, Families and the Labor Market, 1969-1999: Analyzing the "Time Crunch," demonstrates that the increase in hours mothers spend in paid work, combined with the shift toward single-parent families, has resulted in families experiencing an average decrease of 22 hours a week (14 percent) in time that parents spend with their children. The report concludes that the increased time at work among parents requires policy-makers to seek new ways to promote strong families, including greater flexibility in paid work hours, more affordable child care, better support for families with low-wage earning parents, and methods for encouraging two-parent families to form and stay together.

Advancing An Agenda To Help Parents Balance Their Responsibilities At Home And At Work. In his balanced budget request, the President put forward a bold agenda to provide families with greater tools to meet their responsibilities at home and at work. This agenda includes: an historic initiative to make child care better, safer, and more affordable for working families; a tripling of our investment in after-school programs through the 21st Century Community Learning Center program; a new tax credit to help Americans struggling with long-term care costs; and proposals to expand the Family and Medical Leave law to cover more workers and allow leave for more parental activities, including parent-teacher conferences and routine doctor's visits.