Today, we celebrate America’s grandparents and the many ways they support and unite our families. This Grandparents Day, with Labor Day less than a week behind us, it seems fitting that we take a moment to consider grandparents’ impact on our workplaces – and whether we as a nation are doing all that we can to honor their contributions to our families and economy. Sadly, it’s clear that we are not.
Grandparents today are both breadwinners and caregivers for their families. Nearly four in 10 grandparents are responsible for the care of their grandchildren, and in recent years, the number of grandparents who are primary caregivers for their grandchildren has risen. More than 3.5 million grandparents who live with their grandchildren now also hold jobs.
Grandparents are also increasingly cared for by loved ones who have jobs. There are more than five million family caregivers in the United States who care for a grandparent or grandparent-in-law. And more than 40 percent of people who are caring for elderly family members are also caring for children (the “sandwich generation”). Most family caregivers provide care as a labor of love – juggling their care responsibilities while holding “day” jobs to make ends meet.
Yet our nation’s public policies fail to recognize these challenges and the critical role grandparents and caregivers play in our workplaces and families. Neither grandparents who care for grandchildren nor grandchildren who provide care to grandparents are guaranteed job-protected paid or unpaid time off to meet their caregiving needs. Even children providing care for elderly parents too often can’t access paid leave when urgent caregiving needs arise. And it can take a serious financial and emotional toll.
That is why federal-level efforts to enact family friendly workplace standards that would help are essential. Expanding the Family and Medical Leave Act to cover more workers for more reasons would keep people, including grandparents and grandchildren, from losing their jobs and health insurance when caregiving needs arise while helping to ensure that people get the critical care they need.
And establishing federal paid family and medical leave and paid sick days standards would provide critical economic security to all workers who face inevitable health and caregiving needs. As a result, people will have the income they need to buy basic necessities like food and gas, which is good for businesses and our economy.
So, this Grandparents Day, let’s remind our elected officials what it would mean to truly honor America’s grandparents, grandchildren and the working people who care for both by urging them to pass family friendly proposals that would provide them the support they urgently need. Take action here.