Wichitans react to Obama’s working families summit

WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama says many American women can’t even get a day off to give birth.

The president told a working families summit that it’s an issue this country isn’t handling very well.

The United States is the only industrialized nation that doesn’t mandate paid leave for mothers of newborns, according to a United Nations report. But Obama says he’d like to see that change.

But he hasn’t thrown his support to legislation that would raise payroll taxes to cover the costs of paid family leave. His aides say that he wants instead to explore the issue further.

It’s unclear how Obama would fund a national system. Obama has not endorsed legislation that would create one paid by a payroll tax. And he pledged in his 2008 presidential campaign not to raise taxes on families making under $250,000 a year.

Some are concerned with the costs that could be paid by employers if such a system was mandated.

“Those benefits are in place to provide their employees with some of the flexibility that they need,” Anita Buchanan, with the Wichita-based National Staffing Bureau, said. “And so the question becomes at what point is it too much of a burden on the employer.

Many of the top companies offer benefits without government intervention to keep employees happy, she said.

“Those employers are able to attract and retain good employees, and so that raises the bar for the rest of the employers, and if employers don’t treat their employees with respect and some accommodation, they’re going to see their good employees leaving,” Buchanan said.

While some companies offer paid family leave to attract workers, the 1993 Family Medical Leave Act only requires that employers provide unpaid leave for medical and family reasons.

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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