National Partnership for Women & Families

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From the desk of ... Debra L. Ness

Paid Leave Should Be Time to Care – for All of Us

Cross posted from Huffington Post

Imagine your elderly mother has pneumonia and you can’t afford time off to care for her. Imagine your husband was injured while serving in Iraq and you can’t be there during his recovery. Imagine you are diagnosed with cancer and you can’t get life-saving treatment. These are just a few seemingly impossible scenarios featured in “Time To Care,” a new public service announcement that confronts viewers with what is at stake for their health, their families, their businesses and their communities when it comes to national paid leave plans that exclude millions of people.

The National Partnership for Women & Families commissioned the spot to challenge state and federal paid leave proposals that are being touted as real solutions, even though they would actually do more harm than good by leaving many working people and families behind. As news of the Trump administration’s paid parental leave proposal continues to spread, calling out these dangerous proposals for what they are is more important than ever.

Right now, just 14 percent of U.S. workers have paid family leave through their jobs, and fewer than 40 percent have personal medical leave through an employer’s temporary disability insurance program. More than 75 percent of people who take unpaid family and medical leave under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) each year do so for family caregiving and medical reasons — not for parental leave.

Yet the Trump administration’s proposal would provide leave only to new parents for the birth or adoption of a child, and only six weeks of leave — compared to the 12-week national standard established by the FMLA more than two decades ago. It would require states to provide the leave, paid for through unemployment insurance programs and dramatic cuts to public assistance programs that vulnerable families rely on. In short, it doesn’t come close to what working people and families need and it would exacerbate disparities while eroding essential services.

Don’t get me wrong. The challenges working families are facing today due to the nation’s lack of paid leave are real and punishing. But we cannot — and will not — be fooled into thinking that plans that purport to address the issue while making decimating cuts would help. Such plans ignore a strong and growing body of evidence that shows what works and what people need. Instead, we need tested policies like the federal Family And Medical Insurance Leave (FAMILY) Act.

The FAMILY Act is modeled on state paid leave programs — in California, New Jersey, Rhode Island and, soon, New York and the District of Columbia. It would create a comprehensive, inclusive and responsibly funded paid family and medical leave program. It is the only plan that “checks all the boxes” of what working people, families, businesses and our economy need when it comes to paid leave today. And it has the support of hundreds of organizations, eight in 10 voters, and employers of all sizes — including 70 percent of those with 100 or fewer employees.

At the National Partnership, we are working every day to secure a real paid family and medical leave program like the FAMILY Act. That is how we know how important this moment is, for working people and families, for businesses, for lawmakers and for our country. Now is the time to make clear that we will not settle for phony attempts and half measures that leave millions of people behind. Join us by visiting SupportPaidLeave.org/TimeToCare, participating in the #TimeToCare conversation on social media and spreading the word. Paid leave should be time to care — for all of us.


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