At some point in your life, you’ll probably need to take time off from work. Whether you’ll be taking maternity leave to care for a new child, recovering from an illness or medical procedure, or looking after a sick loved one, more often than not, the timing of your absence will not be entirely in your control. After all, life is not particularly predictable...but hopefully your employer understands that.
Unfortunately, most companies in America do not offer any kind of paid family leave. In fact, according to U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, who’s fighting hard to pass paid leave legislation, “only 14 percent of workers have access to paid family leave, and over half of the American workforce does not have access to employer-provided personal leave.”
To address this issue, Gillibrand and Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) have sponsored the FAMILY Act. At Fairygodboss, where we believe employees and employers are most successful when people can bring their true selves to work, we’re 100% supportive of Gillibrand’s efforts and DeLauro's.
Originally introduced in 2013, the FAMILY Act would provide a self-sustaining family insurance program for all workers, regardless of their age, marital status, sex, or size of their employer.
Gillibrand explains why this policy makes good business sense: “The U.S. economy loses billions of dollars every year because we do not have paid family leave. Small businesses and entrepreneurs, the engine of our nation’s economy and drivers of innovation, cannot compete with the workplace benefits of larger companies,” she explains in a statement. “Freelancers and microbusinesses simply do not have the infrastructure to support workers who have caregiving responsibilities.
“Individually, men lose $284,000 and women lose $324,000 in wages and retirement over their lifetimes,” Gillibrand says.
She breaks down her plan to show how it would benefit middle class families, small businesses and the Gig Economy, and seniors:
Middle Class Families: A national family leave program could put $21 billion into the pockets of these families and the economy.
Small Businesses and the Gig Economy: A national family leave plan would reduce the burden on these businesses, and provide the economies of scale to compete with larger businesses’ benefits.
Seniors: There are over 33 million working seniors, with 2.6 million acting as caregivers. Another 20 million Americans are caring for an older relative. Access to a national paid leave program would ensure that seniors and their families do not have to choose between a paycheck and being with their families when they are needed most.
There’s broad national support for the FAMILY Act. Gillibrand’s office reports that 78% of 2016 voters say they favor - and 64% strongly favor - a comprehensive national paid leave law providing 12 weeks of paid leave for workers who need time to care for a newborn or adopted child, a seriously ill family member or their own serious health condition.
Moreover, like Fairygodboss, companies including Spotify and Patagonia have endorsed the FAMILY Act, recognizing the business case for paid family leave. And employers like Etsy have reported that their improved parental benefits seem to be paying off.
Unfortunately, we cannot simply rely on progressive employers to do the right thing -- even when it is likely to improve their own employee retention and turnover. A survey conducted by the Families and Work Institute (FWI) and the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) concludes that on average, the amount of leave offered to U.S. employees has not improved significantly since 2012. You can help by sharing your employer’s policies on Fairygodboss, in our crowdsourced maternity leave database.
It’s more important than ever to continue fighting for comprehensive paid leave legislation. The FAMILY Act -- which is modeled after successful state programs -- would no doubt meet the needs of the modern workforce so that people won’t have to choose between getting paid and supporting their loved ones.
Fairygodboss is committed to improving the workplace and lives of women.
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