Who doesn’t know a working mom who’s sent a sick child to school because she couldn’t afford to miss a day of work?
Who hasn’t dragged their own sickly butt to the office for the same reason?
And what family needs to add to the concerns that accompany pregnancy, the worry that time off for the birth of a newborn will be without a paycheck?
With 40% of the workforce lacking access to paid family or medical leave, President Obama announced several initiatives that will allow workers to balance their families and jobs by giving them the opportunity to earn paid sick days.
Among them are:
The Healthy Families Act – proposed legislation that would allow employees to earn up to 7 days of paid sick leave per year;
A start-up fund to help states create their own paid leave plans for their employees; and
Proposed legislation to create paid parental leave for federal employees.
According to the White House Fact Sheet, all parents are working in more than 60 percent of households with children, up from 40 percent in 1965. And more than 60 percent of women with children under the age of 5 participate in the labor force; compared with around 30 percent in the 1970s.
At the same time, as noted in a recent article in The Washington Post, the workplace has “grown meaner in recent decades”. While the federal Family and Medical Leave Act provides some employees unpaid leave of 12 weeks, and some states – California, Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island – and several cities (including New York City) have passed laws creating some kind of paid sick leave system, the US is the only industrialized nation without any paid leave law! Add to that, the decline of labor unions and stagnated wages, it’s easy to see that employees are becoming more and more disposable and insecure.
In a recent LinkedIn post, Valerie Jarrett, the president’s senior adviser, wrote that “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.”
Will paid family and medical leave allow American business to attract and retain productive workers; particularly female workers? While this is an easy sell for American workers, the Obama administration faces an uphill battle convincing a Republican dominated Congress and American business that it is in their best interest to join the rest of the developed world in passing paid leave laws.
About the Author: Ralph A. Somma Ralph A. Somma is an experienced employment lawyer from Long Island, New York. For over 20 years, Ralph has been working to enforce workplace rights in New York and Long Island.