- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 21, 2014

President Obama on Saturday criticized America’s failure to provide paid maternity leave, saying employers need to be more generous and flexible with their benefits for working families.

“Family leave, childcare, flexibility — these aren’t frills,” Mr. Obama said in his weekly address. “They’re basic needs. They shouldn’t be bonuses – they should be the bottom line.”

Mr. Obama said the U.S. is “way behind the times” as one of only three countries that doesn’t offer paid maternity leave.

“It’s time to change that,” the president said. “A few states have acted on their own to give workers paid family leave, but this should be available to everyone, because all Americans should be able to afford to care for a family member in need.”

His remarks were a preview of the first White House summit on working families to be held Monday in Washington, a gathering that Mr. Obama said will address “the challenges that working parents face every day.”

Senior presidential adviser Valerie Jarrett said Mr. Obama will announce new presidential actions at the summit to benefit working families, and said private companies also will announce commitments to expand benefits for employees.

Congress last changed federal leave standards in 1993 with the Family and Medical Leave Act, which granted workers three months of unpaid leave for childbirth or other family matters.

Mr. Obama supports the proposed Federal Employees Paid Parental Leave Act, which would require four weeks of paid parental leave.