Why we need Paid Family and Medical Leave
Nurturing a new child, fighting cancer, caring for an aging parent – there are a handful of times when family and health must come first. New moms and babies are healthier with extended maternity leaves, and everyone recovers better from illness when family members provide care. But too many Washington workers are forced to return to work too soon, sacrificing health and family well-being in order to pay their bills.
Investing in families pays off
- Children and families thrive. In the 5 states with paid family and medical leave programs:
- Mothers and fathers take longer leaves to care for their newborn children.
- Babies are breastfed longer and get better preventative care, and moms have fewer health complications following childbirth.
- Mothers are more likely to be working – and earning more – one year following a birth.
- Seniors stay healthy and independent longer. With our population rapidly aging, more workers than ever find themselves caring for aging parents, too. A little extra support for family caregivers means better quality of life for elders.
- The public saves. Families with infants are less likely to receive TANF welfare grants and receive lower amounts of other types of public assistance like food stamps in states with paid leave programs. And seniors spend less time in expensive nursing homes.
- The economy prospers. Helping working families cover the basics when a baby arrives or a health crisis strikes means local businesses keep their customers and retain good employees.
YOU can help us pass a Paid Family and Medical Leave Program for Washington in 2017!
Washington’s Work & Family Coalition is working with state policy makers to craft a proposal that takes the best from existing programs in other states and ensures that:
- All children born in our state have the best possible start in life – regardless of where their parents work.
- Our elders have the loving care of family members as they face health challenges and reach the ends of their lives.
- Families sustain economic security during critical times.
- Program costs are low and sustainable, and businesses of all kinds can continue to thrive.
Working families need a change
The federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) has allowed millions of American workers to take up to 12 weeks of family or medical leave since 1993. But FMLA doesn’t provide pay or even cover the more than 4 in 10 workers in companies with fewer than 50 employees, or who have changed jobs or worked fewer than 1,250 hours in the previous year.
Only 12% of private sector workers get paid family leave, and access to vacation and sick leave is limited. Workers already struggling with low wages – disproportionately women and people of color – are least likely to have any kind of paid leave, and simply can’t afford time off without pay. Nearly 2 out of 3 American women who give birth are in the workforce – but the U.S. is the only major country that does not guarantee paid maternity leave. As our population ages, more workers are caring for elderly family members. Paid family leave will improve the health and quality of life of seniors.
A proven approach
Five states have established low-cost programs that provide all employees with income when they need to take extended time off for health or family. California, New Jersey, New York and Rhode Island have full family and disability leave in place, while Hawaii covers the worker’s disability, including conditions related to pregnancy and childbirth.
Washington adopted the beginnings of a paid family and medical leave program to provide new parents with up to 5 weeks of partly paid leave in 2007. But family leave as adopted then was too skimpy – and wasn’t funded. Because of the recession, the program was not implemented. Now Washington’s Work and Family Coalition is developing an improved – and fully funded – family and medical leave program for our state. Our families have waited long enough. It’s time to pass the paid family and medical leave.