In one of a series of announcements leading up to his State of the Union Address on Jan. 20th, President Obama has unveiled plans to give federal employees at least six weeks of paid maternity leave.

According to the New York Times:

The president needs congressional approval to require federal agencies to provide the six weeks of paid parental leave. But in the absence of that legislation, the president will sign a memorandum to mandate that agencies advance new mothers and fathers a six-week chunk of paid time off — a benefit that is now only discretionary.

In his speech today, Obama will push Congress to pass the Healthy Families Act, which would allow workers across the United States up to seven paid sick days a year and provide $2.2 billion in mandatory funding to reimburse states that initiate paid leave programs. The U.S. is the only developed country in the world that doesn't guarantee paid maternity leave, and the Times notes that while more than half of American workers are eligible for 12 weeks of time off under the Family and Medical Leave Act, "employers are not required to pay their workers during leave, and often do not."

Valerie Jarrett, the president's senior advisor, introduced the proposal via LinkedIn on Wednesday:

We know that today, 43 million private sector workers in the U.S. are without any form of paid sick leave. Only three states — California, New Jersey, and Rhode Island — offer paid family and medical leave. The United States remains the only developed country in the world that does not offer paid maternity leave. The truth is, the success and productivity of our workers is inextricably tied to their ability to care for their families and maintain a stable life at home.

Despite ample evidence that reasonable leave policies are good for everyone—and, to be clear, 6 weeks maternity leave is not so much "reasonable" as "the absolute bare minimum"—the Administration won't find much support for the proposal in Congress, where Republicans maintain that the government shouldn't be telling companies what to do (subtext: companies should be telling the government what to do).

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Read Jarrett's full LinkedIn post here, and keep your fingers crossed for humanity!

Image via Getty