New Momentum on Paid Leave, in Business and Politics

Oregon this month became the fourth state to pass a bill requiring that companies give workers paid sick days to care for themselves or family members.

Chipotle said this month that it would begin offering hourly workers paid sick days and vacation days, joining McDonald’s, Microsoft and other companies that have recently given paid leave to more workers.
And in a speech meant to preview her presidential campaign, Hillary Rodham Clinton put paid leave at the center of her platform. No one, she said, should have “to choose between keeping a paycheck and caring for a new baby or a sick relative.”

Long a pet Democratic cause that seemed hopelessly far-fetched, paid leave suddenly seems less so. With pay for most workers still growing sluggishly — as it has been for most of the last 15 years — political leaders are searching for policies that can lift middle-class living standards. Companies, for their part, are becoming more aggressive in trying to retain workers as the unemployment rate has fallen below 6 percent.

Full Story: The New York Times »

Paid family leave can offer many benefits

Paid family leave affects our country and our businesses and the personal lives of the parents trying to strive without it. The United States is one of only four nations in the world without a federal entitlement to paid leave for families (out of around 200 nations). So it is obvious that the “land of the free,” needs mothers (and sometimes fathers) to be provided with rights to a substantial amount of paid leave following the birth of a child.

In Canada the country provides a year or more of paid leave, with 55 percent of pay replaced. The Swedish program provides 13 months of shared leave, paying the parents 80 percent of their salaries, up to a limit. One of the current three states providing paid leave in the United States, California, allows six weeks of leave with 55 percent of usual pay replaced.

Not only was California the first state to jump on board the paid family leave boat, but their businesses say it has had little to no ill effect. A recent study found that “California companies could save $89 million under a paid leave program due to increased employee retention and decreased turn-over; The State of California could save $25 million annually, due to decreased reliance on assistance programs, including TANF and food stamps.” Many individuals currently turn to these programs when taking unpaid leave because of financial hardship.

So families have a choice. Either undergo huge pay cuts and most likely rely on state and federal assistance programs, or get paid the fair share of money they worked for and were taxed for. Parents staying at home instead of having kids in day care is more than just avoiding additional financial burdens. There is an impact on the children. The Infant Feeding Practices Study examines the changes in breastfeeding practices in California relative to other states before and after the implementation of paid leave. Findings show a 10 percent to 20 percent increase of breastfeeding during several important markers of early infancy. Meaning that the more states with paid leave, the more children will get proper nutrition as an infant, and we all know the benefits of breastfeeding: smarter kids.

Think of our country’s future. Paid family leave can be the difference that our citizens need. In Washington state the Legislature passed a paid family leave law in 2007, originally to take effect in October 2009, but the law was never implemented. Join me in supporting the well-being of our county, businesses and families and petition to reinstate the paid family leave law in Washington state.

Emily Fleshman-Cooper is a resident of Sultan.

Original: Everett Herald »

A Long Overdue (Economic) Gift For Our Fathers

Photo credit: Diana Nguyen/Flickr Creative Commons

Photo credit: Diana Nguyen/Flickr Creative Commons

Father’s Day generates less sentimental gushing than Mother’s Day. But as this Father’s Day approaches, I’m reminded that just as struggling moms need fair pay and paid family leave a lot more than flowers, fathers need these policies, too –more than a new tie or camping toaster.

My friend, Gabriela, has spent most of the past two months with her father in hospitals and doctors’ offices. In a few short weeks, he transformed from fit and lively to a weak old man with cancer and a slew of health complications. With her sister juggling two jobs, Gabriela has been the one to take time off work and help her parents navigate through the complex maze of specialists, tests, and insurance forms, while they’ve sought a diagnosis and treatment plan.

My young neighbor Patrick is eagerly awaiting the birth of his first child next month. But he won’t get to spend the rest of the summer as he’d like, caring for his new son and making sure his wife, Caitlin, gets some rest. He’ll be able to take only three weeks off before returning to full days at the office. Caitlin’s maternity leave will be completely unpaid.

If they lived in California where Patrick’s company is based instead of in Washington, they would each qualify for six weeks of paid family leave through the state-run insurance program, and Caitlin would have several additional weeks of paid disability leave during her recovery. That’s better for the baby, the mom, and the dad.

And it’s not just individuals who benefit from access to paid family leave. We know from experience in other states that taxpayers, businesses, and communities are better off, too.

Every child deserves a good start in life, with loving, unstressed parents nurturing them – regardless of geography or economic class. In the five states with family and/or disability leave insurance that assures most women get some paid maternity leave, babies are breastfed longer and have better access to well-baby care –improving their long-term health and access to opportunity. (In addition to California, New Jersey, Rhode Island, New York, and Hawaii have these programs.)

New moms in these states have fewer health complications, are less likely to go on public assistance, and are more likely to be working and for higher wages than women in other states. And the dads take longer paternity leaves. Studies have shown that when fathers forge those early bonds, they are more likely to stay involved with their child long term, with countless emotional, intellectual, and financial benefits for that child.

Having family members present through serious illnesses and final days should also not be a matter of luck. Anybody who’s been through what Gabriela is going through knows that the quality of medical care is higher when family members are there to advocate, coordinate, and participate.

Costs to the health system and state also go down. A Republican legislator who voted against Rhode Island’s paid family leave program is reported to support it now that he’s seen it operate, saying: “If you’re going to keep people out of nursing homes and facilities, you need someone at home to help. Grandma can go home quicker after surgery if someone is at home to make sure she is okay.”

Businesses prosper, too, when employees can take the time they need for family care without facing financial calamity. Productivity goes up, costly turnover goes down. And the boost in family economic security means customers have a little more to spend in local businesses.

We have a simple solution for my friends Patrick and Gabriela, and the thousands of others who are struggling to both provide and care for their families. Earlier this year, the FAMLI Act passed through one committee in the Washington State House, but stalled there. It would provide workers with up to 12 weeks of family or disability leave with partial pay, to care for a close family member – or if they get cancer or are struck by a car themselves. As in the other states with these systems, workers and employers would pay a small payroll premium of one or two dollars a week into the trust fund to cover costs.

Next January our legislators have another shot at passing the FAMLI Act. So this Father’s Day, how about sending a note to your state legislators, asking them to prioritize passing family leave next year, for all the dads and moms and sons and daughters in Washington state.

Original: South Seattle Emerald »

Sweden Is About To Give New Fathers A Third Month Of Paid Paternity Leave

Photo: Rasmus Andersson/Flickr Creative Commons

Photo: Rasmus Andersson/Flickr Creative Commons

Sweden is a great place to be a dad, and the country is about to make things even better for soon-to-be fathers.

Beginning in 2016, men in the country will be entitled to a third (yes, third) month of paid paternal leave based on a new government proposal. The new plan builds on one of the world’s most generous parental leave policies, with nearly 90 percent of Swedish fathers using the benefit.

Swedish parents are entitled to 480 days of paid parental leave when a child is born or adopted; 390 of those are paid at 80 percent of normal pay and, as of now, 60 of those are reserved exclusively for fathers. The days can be taken up until a child turns 8, and each new child garners new days of paid leave, so parents are able to accumulate days from several children.

If the days reserved for paternal leave aren’t used, they’re lost, encouraging both parents to stay home when a child is born. But parents are also legally entitled to cut their working hours by up to 25 percent until a child’s eighth birthday.

Sadly, fathers and mothers in the United States aren’t offered a package even remotely as generous.

Unless a company explicitly offers the benefit — or a person lives in California, Rhode Island or New Jersey — the United States doesn’t have paid parental leave. The Family and Medical Leave Act entitles full-time workers at companies with 50 or more employees to 12 weeks of unpaid leave, Bloomberg notes. But only half of workers in America are covered by the policy; freelancers, part-time employees, those at small businesses and others aren’t provided with even that limited allotment.

Full Story: Huffington Post »

Millennials want a work-life balance. Their bosses just don’t get why.

Photo: Matt Reinbold/Flickr Creative Commons

Photo: Matt Reinbold/Flickr Creative Commons

Workers around the globe have been finding it harder to juggle the demands of work and the rest of life in the past five years, a new report shows, with many working longer hours, deciding to delay or forgo having children, discontinuing education, or struggling to pay tuition for their children.

Why?

A big reason is the economy: Professional workers in companies that shed employees in the Great Recession are still doing the work of two or more people and working longer hours. Salaries have stagnated, and costs continue to rise, according to a new survey of nearly 10,000 workers in eight countries by Ernst & Young’s Global Generations Research.

But another big reason? The boss just doesn’t get it.

Close to 80 percent of millennials surveyed are part of dual-income couples in which both work full time. Of Generation X workers, people in their 30s and 40s now, 73 percent are. But of baby boomers, the generation born just after World War II that now occupies most top management positions, just 47 percent have a full-time working spouse. More than a quarter of baby-boomer workers have a spouse at home, or one who works part time or with flexible hours and is responsible for taking care of all home-front duties.

“I really see that there’s an empathy gap in the workplace,” said Karyn Twaronite, EY global-diversity and inclusiveness officer. “When there’s frustration about work-life balance in the workplace, and you think your boss doesn’t get it, that very likely could be true. ”

Full story: Washington Post »

If We Want to Help Working Mothers, We Could Start With Paid Paternity Leave

Photo: robleto/Flickr Creative Commons

Photo: robleto/Flickr Creative Commons

A utopia in which working parents can balance careers and kids can’t be achieved here on Earth, or at least not without some tradeoffs. That’s the conclusion some reached after the New York Times rounded up studies showing that policies such as longer paid maternity leaves and affordable child care can help working mothers but also hold them back in the workplace. Among all developed countries, the Times found, better maternity leaves and flexible work protections have led to more women entering the workforce but fewer women in leadership roles. Here in the U.S., even our paltry guarantee of unpaid maternity leave has made women less likely to get promotions.

But these studies, aren’t indictments of workplace policies such as paid leave and subsidized child care. They are indictments of crafting these policies under the false assumption that women are the only ones who need them.

For example, a law in Chile requiring employers to provide child care for children under the age of 2 only applies to those companies with a certain share of female employees. In Spain, there’s a law giving workers with young children the right to ask for fewer hours, but it’s almost entirely women who ask. American women are a third more likely to take unpaid leave than men. Many families can’t afford to have both parents out on unpaid leave or working fewer hours to be home with children at one time, and it’s the mother who is still nearly always the one who scales back.

Well-crafted policy can change all of that. One policy in particular could do an inordinate amount to shift culture and how we see working fathers: paid paternity leave, with a use-it-or-lose-it clause.

Full Story: Slate.com »

Every Washington legislator has a mom — so why don’t more of them care about “moms”?

Photo: Sean Dreilinger/Flickr Creative Commons

Photo: Sean Dreilinger/Flickr Creative Commons

Moms just can’t get a break these days. Data released by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, show that having children is one of the worst career moves a woman could make. According to their research, mothers in Washington are 44% less likely to be hired than non-mothers for the same job, and are paid less than non-mothers, averaging 78 cents to a man’s dollar.

Women of color and single mothers are more likely to experience this motherhood penalty. A PEW report found that 40% of all households with children under the age of 18 included mothers who were either the sole or primary source of income for the family. The majority (63%) of these women were single mothers and were more likely to be black or Hispanic and less likely to have a college degree.

Pay inequities, coupled with a lack of “parent-friendly” benefits, including paid family leave and paid sick leave; contribute to significant barriers to mothers remaining in the workforce. Some mothers may feel forced to reduce their hours or opt out of the labor force altogether to take care of a new child, but not all women have that choice.

Seattle claimed a huge victory when Mayor Murray announced that Seattle city employees will receive four weeks of paid parental leave under a new plan. The King County Council recently established a new policy that working parents employed by King County will receive up to 12 weeks in paid parental leave after a birth, adoption, or new placement of a foster child.

Four cities (Seattle, San Francisco, Washington D.C.,  Chicago, and Austin, TX) provide paid parental leave – and for good reasons. Research shows “parent-friendly” laws actually increase women’s labor market attachment, promote economic growth and reduce spending on public programs, such as food stamps. However, access to these benefits depends on your occupation and geographic location.

Women don’t grow up dreaming of all the struggles they will face should they decide to become mothers.  And no one can prepare for having to choose between career and family. Jobs are the core of the American economy and should allow workers to meet their individual and family needs. To reverse these disparities we need to enact new family-friendly policies and strengthen existing ones.

While some cities and states have stepped up to make advances in leveling the playing field, a majority of women are still facing impossible decisions. In Washington, efforts to ensure statewide paid sick and safe leave and provide paid parental leave have been stalled by our state legislators, despite the progress in our cities. Let’s hope our elected leaders step up to do the right thing for women, mothers and families instead of settling for “good enough.”

By Janna Higgins, Graduate Policy Intern