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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release May 24, 1999

May 24, 1999


SUBJECT: New Tools to Help Parents Balance Work and Family

Since I became President, my Administration has worked hard to make sure that parents have the tools they need to meet their obligations at home and at work. I am proud that the very first bill I signed into law was the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Since 1993, the FMLA has allowed millions of Americans to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave -- without fear of losing their jobs -- to care for a newborn or adopted child, to attend to their own serious health needs, or to care for a seriously ill parent, son, daughter, or spouse. Too many American workers, however, have been unable to take the leave they need because they simply cannot afford to go without a paycheck.

Therefore, I am taking new steps toward enabling workers to take the leave they need.

First, I hereby direct the Secretary of Labor to propose regulations that enable States to develop innovative ways of using the Unemployment Insurance (UI) system to support parents on leave following the birth or adoption of a child. In addition, I direct the Secretary to develop model State legislation that States could use in following these regulations. In this effort, the Department of Labor is to evaluate the effectiveness of using the UI system for these or related purposes. In a 1996 study conducted by the Commission on Family and Medical Leave, lost pay was the most significant barrier to parents taking advantage of unpaid leave after the birth or adoption of a child. This new step will help to give States the ability to eliminate a significant barrier that parents face in taking leave.

Second, I direct the Director of the Office of Personnel Management to propose 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 FMLA. 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 the sick leave they have earned, we will eliminate a significant barrier to caring for a family member with a serious health condition. The use of paid sick leave under this policy will be subject to the same conditions as the use of unpaid leave for these purposes under the FMLA. In particular, the same notification and certification requirements that govern the use of unpaid leave to care for a spouse, son, daughter, or parent under the FMLA will apply to Federal employees who use paid sick leave for this purpose. I believe the Federal Government has an important role to play in setting an example for the Nation.

Finally, I direct the Director of the Office of Personnel Management to establish an Interagency Family Friendly Workplace Working Group within 90 days to promote, evaluate, and exchange information on Federal family-friendly workplace initiatives. I also direct the head of each executive department and agency to appoint a family-friendly work/life coordinator to serve as a member of this Working Group. Working Group representatives will be responsible for making sure that Federal employees are aware of the full range of options available to them to meet their personal and family responsibilities (such as alternative work schedules, telecommuting, part-time employment, and job sharing). The coordinators also will provide employees with information about child and elder care resources currently available in their communities, and establish and promote parent support groups, elder care support groups, and on-site nursing mothers' programs.


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