Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton yesterday proposed giving $1 billion in grants to states that enact paid family leave laws and said that she would support requiring employers to provide workers seven days’ annual paid sick leave.
Mrs. Clinton, a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, also called for expanding the Federal Family and Medical Leave Act, which protects the jobs of workers who take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave. The law covers businesses with more than 50 workers. Mrs. Clinton would lower that to 25, covering an additional 13 million people, her campaign said.
The ideas are the latest parts of Mrs. Clinton’s strategy to cement women as the cornerstone of her support, but her call for an expanded federal role in labor activities drew fire from business leaders, who called her proposals onerous.
Business representatives said state laws on paid leaves were often so broad that they risked abuses like demands for paid leaves for minor health concerns. In addition, the federal law on unpaid leave continues to concern some critics because some workers take leaves with short notice or are difficult to replace.
“Extending the unpaid leave act to smaller employers will just create more problems, especially when the definition of a ‘serious health condition’ is so extremely broad,” said Randy Y. Johnson, vice president for labor issues at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
Mrs. Clinton’s advisers said they would work with Congress and industry to expand the federal law with an eye toward flexibility and supporting the needs of small businesses. They said Mrs. Clinton would also support guaranteed paid sick days through new legislation, a program that has had Democratic support on Capitol Hill for some time.
Mrs. Clinton also proposed tens of millions of additional dollars for block grants for child care programs.
Together, the new proposals that Mrs. Clinton announced yesterday in New Hampshire would cost $1.75 billion a year. The campaign said the government would cover the costs by establishing a single definition for a tax shelter that would ultimately yield more than $2 billion a year, according to a Congressional estimate that it cited.
In her New Hampshire speech, excerpts show, Mrs. Clinton recalled her days as a mother and lawyer. She described a “gut wrenching” moment when she had to appear in court when her daughter, Chelsea, was sick. A family friend filled in for the baby sitter.
It was the sort of personal anecdote that Mrs. Clinton is highlighting this week, a week that her campaign has devoted to appealing to working women and mothers.