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AG Healey to offer her employees paid parental leave

Jim Davis/Globe Staff

Attorney General Maura Healey plans to announce Tuesday that she will grant six weeks of paid parental leave to employees in her office, drawing attention in Massachusetts to an issue that President Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton have driven on the national stage.

Healey plans to tell the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce that she will make the benefit available to all 525 employees in her office, including those who adopt or have foster children.

She is casting the issue as part of her drive to guarantee that women receive equal pay for equal work. Currently, new parents in her office, like all American workers, are guaranteed 12 weeks of unpaid leave, and those who want paid time off to care for a new child must use sick time or vacation time.


“It’s not everything we need to do, but it’s a major step in the right direction,” Healey plans to tell the chamber, according to an excerpt of her speech, the first she has delivered to the influential business group since taking office in January.

In advocating for paid time off for new parents, Healey is seizing on an issue that has gained prominence in national Democratic circles.

In a Mother’s Day video Sunday promoting paid parental leave, Clinton, a 2016 presidential candidate, called it “outrageous that America is the only country in the developed world that doesn’t guarantee paid leave.”

In January, Obama described the issue as a matter of basic economic fairness when he urged Congress to provide federal employees with six weeks of paid parental leave. The president also signed a memo that immediately allowed federal agencies to let employees use six weeks of paid sick time to care for a new child.

Most American workers, under the 1993 Family and Medical Leave Act signed by President Clinton, are guaranteed 12 weeks of unpaid leave.


But many now see that law as outdated because the United States is often cited in international surveys as the only industrialized nation that does not mandate any paid time off for new parents.

Britain provides 39 weeks of paid leave for parents, with a guarantee that they receive 90 percent of their wages. Hungary and Lithuania grant 1½ years or more of fully paid leave, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

In Healey’s speech to the chamber, she plans to say she is also reviewing the salaries of her office’s employees to determine whether there are any disparities in pay between men and women.

She also plans to urge the chamber to support a bill recently filed in the Legislature that would forbid employers from asking what prospective hires earned at their previous jobs.

Supporters of the bill say that timeworn practice propagates lower salaries for women, even as they move to better jobs in new companies.

“We need to do better because this isn’t a woman’s issue,” Healey plans to tell the chamber. “It’s a core economic security challenge for our families and for our state.”

Michael Levenson can be reached at mlevenson@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @mlevenson.