Nine of the nation’s leading medical, patient advocacy, caregiving and disability organizations are joining together to launch a coalition, called Health and Caregiving Leaders for Paid Leave, to urge Congress to enact a nationwide, comprehensive paid family and medical leave policy. As COVID-19 cases rise across the country, the organizations recognize the value of ensuring workers can take time off to either recover from an illness or care for a loved one without missing a paycheck.
The coalition, convened by the National Partnership for Women & Families, represents millions of patients, caregivers, medical professionals, people with disabilities and their families, and other individuals harmed by a lack of paid leave and includes the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Heart Association, Elizabeth Dole Foundation, March of Dimes, National Alliance for Caregiving, National Hispanic Medical Association, The Arc, and UsAgainstAlzheimer’s.
The coalition is coming together to advocate for a comprehensive federal paid leave program centered on the following principles:
- Paid leave must be universal — every employed individual across the country, regardless of where they live or work, should have access to paid family and medical leave.
- Paid leave must be comprehensive, and it must allow time off for the full range of needs that employed individuals have as outlined in the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) of 1993: to care for a family member or your own serious medical conditions, for military caregiving or deployment purposes, and to welcome a new child. It must also be inclusive and allow people with medical needs the ability to have those closest to them provide care, reflecting what today’s caregiving relationships look like.
- Paid leave must be sufficient, with a partial wage replacement that makes taking leave financially possible, and a duration that allows people to meet their care and health needs.
The organizations in this coalition have been leaders in the fight for comprehensive paid family and medical leave for individuals across the lifespan. From parents caring for their newborns or child with a disability, to adults providing assistance to aging family members, and to individuals managing their own health conditions, these organizations have been at the helm in advocating for the health and caregiving benefits that paid leave offers. These groups have testified in front of Congress and hosted Capitol Hill briefings on the health benefits of paid leave, developed groundbreaking research on the need for a comprehensive policy, and shared stories from their members who lacked access to paid family and medical leave. This group will leverage their collective resources and health and caregiving expertise to elevate the need for comprehensive paid family and medical leave.
“Paid leave supports parents in creating the safe, stable, nurturing relationships and parenting practices to help their babies thrive,” said Lee Savio Beers, MD, FAAP, President, American Academy of Pediatrics. “When a parent needs time off work to care for their child, themselves, or an aging relative, paid leave protects the family from poverty and food insecurity, both of which harm child health. And the policy can also reduce health disparities by addressing the current racial and economic inequities that exist in access to paid leave. The American Academy of Pediatrics urges Congress not to miss this moment to make a real difference for so many children and families.”
"Most Americans will face the demands of having a baby or caring for a loved one and many have to make serious sacrifices that affect much more than their finances,” said Stacey D. Stewart, President and CEO of March of Dimes. “The U.S. is the only industrialized nation that does not offer working parents paid time off to care for a new child. Many challenges facing new parents and their families could be solved if the U.S. provided paid family leave. For that reason, March of Dimes has supported policies to create an affordable and self-sustaining national system to provide workers with up to 12 weeks of partial income through a family and medical leave insurance fund. We call on Congress to take immediate action to establish a universal, comprehensive national paid family and medical leave program that is available to every employee no matter where they live.”
“The majority of family caregivers are providing care while also working full-time and often for hourly wages,” said Grace Whiting, President and CEO, National Alliance for Caregiving. “Time they take away from work unpaid to care for someone means money out of their pockets. Paid leave isn’t the end-all, be-all for caregivers but it is an issue that is past its time when you recognize the economic insecurity that caregivers face.”
"Latinos disproportionately are essential workers for employers who do not provide paid family and medical leave, and face higher exposure to infectious diseases; thus, they would benefit most from a new essential worker paid leave insurance program," said Elena Rios, MD, MSPH, FACP, President & CEO, National Hispanic Medical Association.
“For people with disabilities and their families, paid leave means not having to choose between your job and being there for a loved one,” said Peter Burns, CEO, The Arc. “Members of our network face that impossible choice every single day as parents and siblings and other loved ones take time off to be there for their family members with disabilities. But after the past year, no one can deny that we need paid leave now. Congress must act!”
“Millions of Americans are struggling to provide care to a family member with dementia while balancing work, other family obligations, and financial challenges,” said George Vradenburg, Chairman and Co-Founder, UsAgainstAlzheimer’s. “Congress must pass a comprehensive paid family and medical leave bill that offers critically needed support to these caregivers. The dementia caregiving crisis is especially severe for women, particularly women of color, who are more likely to have caregiving responsibilities and who are at higher risk of dementia themselves.”
“This pandemic has demonstrated to the world what health and caregiving advocates have known for years — that paid family and medical leave is a critical component of ensuring people have the care they need without risking their pay, or their job,” said Debra Ness, President of the National Partnership for Women & Families. “People at every stage of life are caregivers or need to be cared for, whether you are welcoming a new baby to the family, recovering from an illness or caring for an aging parent. We are proud to join alongside health and caregiving advocates to call for a national, comprehensive paid family and medical leave policy that benefits workers and families across the country.”
More than 110 million people — 79 percent of workers — do not have paid family leave through an employer to care for a new child or a loved one with a serious health condition, or to address their own medical issue. This burden is felt disproportionately by women, and especially women of color. Compared to white workers, Latinx workers are 66 percent less likely to be able to take leave when needed. Black workers are 83 percent less likely and Native American, Pacific Islander and multiracial workers are 100 percent less likely. At the same time, 45 percent of family caregivers experience financial impact and work interruptions as a result of caregiving. A new study found that paid leave policies lead to 20 percent fewer women leaving the workforce.
Paid family and medical leave has widespread support from voters and businesses alike. Seventy-five percent of voters across the political spectrum support a comprehensive, inclusive, sustainably-funded paid leave plan that includes all working people for all serious family and medical needs established in the FMLA. Additionally, 70 percent of small business owners and operators support creating a family and medical leave insurance program funded by shared employer and employee contributions.
About the National Partnership
The National Partnership for Women & Families is a nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy group dedicated to promoting fairness in the workplace, reproductive health and rights, access to quality, affordable health care and policies that help all people meet the dual demands of work and family. More information is available at NationalPartnership.org.
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