WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack
Obama, as part of efforts to make the U.S. workplace more accommodating
for employees with families, will on Monday direct federal agencies to
step up efforts give workers more leeway in determining their schedules.
The president will issue a memorandum requiring federal agency
heads to expand flexible workplace policies as much as possible, the
White House said in a statement. The goal is to make it easier for
parents or workers to take care of family needs and to enable more
people to find and keep jobs.
Obama will also make clear that federal workers may request a
flexible work arrangement without fear it will subject them to
negative consequences in the workplace, whether the request is
granted or not, the White House said.
The announcements will be issued as part of the White House's
"summit on working families," where Obama will promote policies such
as raising the minimum wage and expanding access to childcare.
Republicans have said the proposals would hurt jobs, but Obama, who
is seeking to boost Democratic fortunes before the midterm elections
in November, argues the measures would help the economy.
The president will further push for additional protections for
pregnant women in the workplace by urging Congress to pass
legislation preventing discrimination against expecting mothers, the
White House said. The Department of Labor will make $25 million
available to provide childcare for workers in training programs.
Faced with a Republican-led House of Representatives, the
president's chances of passing legislation are slight. He has
declared that he will pursue his agenda through unilateral actions
such as executive orders and official memos.
Administration officials said they hope the conference, which will
include participation from the private sector and labor unions, will
draw attention to family-friendly practices that have been good for
businesses as well as employees.
While employers often cite the costs of providing such benefits as
an obstacle, the White House said many companies have found that by
accommodating workers' family needs, they retain employees longer
and recruit better workers.
"Research has shown that companies who adopt family-friendly
policies are more profitable and that these policies are good for
their competitiveness," the White House said in a statement.
The administration last week released a report showing that the
United States could boost its sagging labor force participation rate
and get more people back to work if more businesses had policies
such as paid maternity and paternity leave.
While the U.S. economy has shown signs of recovery since the
recession ended in 2009, with unemployment at a five-and-a-half year
low of 6.3 percent in May, those gains are tempered by concerns over
a 62.8 percent labor force participation rate - the lowest rate in
(Reporting By Mark Felsenthal; Editing by Nick Zieminski)