Study: ‘B-minus’ for WA workplace laws concerning expectant and new parents

Photo credit: Diana Nguyen/Flickr Creative Commons

Photo credit: Diana Nguyen/Flickr Creative Commons

SEATTLE — The Evergreen State has room for improvement when it comes to protecting working families, according to a new report. The National Partnership for Women and Families gave Washington a “B-minus” grade in a recent study assessing states’ workplace policies to protect expectant and new parents – including paid family leave and workplace accommodations for pregnant women.

According to Marilyn Watkins, policy director at the Economic Opportunity Institute and head of the Washington Work and Family Coalition, there’s one bright spot for Washington parents who need time off to care for their children.

“Over a decade ago now,” Watkins said, “Washington passed a law that says that if you do have paid leave – paid sick leave or some other kind of paid time off – you can use that leave not only if you’re sick yourself, but also if you have a sick child, spouse, parent, parent-in-law, grandparent.”

Only California received an ‘A’ grade in the report. Both New Jersey and the District of Columbia received an ‘A-minus.’

A pregnant woman in Washington can also take as much time off as necessary without having to worry about losing her job, Watkins said. But she won’t necessarily be paid for that time.

Sarah Fleisch Fink, director of policy and senior counsel with the National Partnership for Women and Families, said that while Washington has taken steps in the right direction, workers in low-wage jobs are disproportionately affected by inadequate workplace protections.

“For workers in low-wage jobs, they are even less likely to have access to paid leave, they are even less likely to have access to paid sick days and to other protections,” she said. “And in many cases, they are even more in need.”

A state ballot initiative this year could help alleviate some of the financial stress for expectant and new parents, Watkins said. Initiative 1433 would raise the minimum wage statewide to $13.50 an hour by 2020, and also provide workers with paid sick leave. According to Watkins, more than a million workers in Washington currently don’t have a single day of paid sick leave.

“So, they are going to hugely benefit from having access to paid sick leave for the first time; so will their kids, so will the elders in their family,” Watkins said. “We’re all going to be healthier when workers aren’t forced to make the choice between going to work sick or putting groceries on the family’s table that week.”

Via Public News Service »

The world is getting better at paid maternity leave. The U.S. is not.

matleave-map

When news broke that Ivanka Trump’s clothing line doesn’t offer workers paid maternity leave, some were surprised. After all, the Republican presidential nominee’s daughter has said she champions the rights of working mothers. “Policies that allow women with children to thrive should not be novelties,” she said on the last day of the Republican National Convention in July. “They should be the norm.”

The truth is, however, that in the United States bearing a child comes at a high price for many women. Despite having one of the world’s most advanced economies, the United States lags far behind other countries in its policies for expectant mothers. In addition to being the only highly competitive country where mothers are not guaranteed paid leave, it sits in stark contrast to countries such as Cuba and Mongolia that offer expectant mothers one year or more of paid leave.

Countries finance paid-maternal-leave policies in a variety of ways. Some require that the employer finance the leave; in others, the money comes from public funds. For low-income residents or those who work in the informal sector, an increasing number of governments are providing maternity cash benefits, according to the International Labor Organization, a U.N.-affiliated agency.

The graphic above highlights just how poorly the U.S. compares with the rest of the world. It shows that this is the only advanced economy that does not mandate paid leave for mothers at the federal level.

Full story: Washington Post

 

 

Home Economics: The Link Between Work-Life Balance and Income Equality

The central conflict of domestic life right now isn’t men versus women or mothers versus fathers; it’s the family against money.

The solution to the work-life conundrum is not “enlisting men” in the domestic sphere. The solution is establishing social supports that allow families to function. The fact is, men can’t have it all, for the same reason women can’t: whether or not the load is being shared 50-50 doesn’t matter if the load is still unbearable. It will not become bearable once women lean in, or once the consciousness is raised, or once men are full partners, always, in domestic life. It will become bearable when decidedly more quotidian things become commonplace—like paid parental leave and affordable, quality day care.

Full Story: The Atlantic »

Will Washington workers be next in the push for paid parental leave?

Smiling Mother Playing With Baby Son At Home

When Beth* had her first two children, her employer’s paid family leave policy covered her family’s expenses while she took time off to recover and bond with her infants. Not having to worry about a gap in income meant she could focus on her maternity leave. But when she gave birth to her third child, Beth was working for a different company that did not offer a paid family leave policy. Still, she and her husband felt they could manage some debt in order to take unpaid time off.

Then, Beth was diagnosed with cancer just days before her baby’s first birthday. During the following year of cancer treatments, the family’s expenses piled up, along with their debt, as Beth took more unpaid time away from work.

Beth says that having a paid leave policy, either for maternity leave or to cover her cancer-related leave, would have better situated her and her family for her health crisis. “We’re still digging out of debt,” says Beth, who is now cancer-free.

For many employees, starting a family impacts the trajectory of their career and their family’s economic story in ways both foreseen and unanticipated. The way that an employee eases (or staggers) into parenthood creates ripple effects that can be felt for years, even decades, by families, workplaces, entire industries and our society. Research shows that parents who receive paid leave from work to recover from childbirth and raise their babies reap long-term benefits: When new moms are afforded paid maternity leave, they have fewer health complications and are more likely to be working and earning more money one year after the birth of their child, which leads to better economic, academic and social outcomes for children later on. It’s also been found that babies receive better preventive care when moms are given paid leave. When fathers have access to paid leave, they are more likely to take leave and are more involved in the direct care of their children. Paid leave actually improves businesses’ bottom lines, reduces stress among employees and improves morale among the employees who take leave and their coworkers.

“Paid family leave is the No. 1 policy that improves health and economic outcomes for all people. Even though we live in the world’s richest country, the wealthiest people here are dying earlier than in other countries. Our infant mortality ranks 37th worldwide,” says Teresa Mosqueda, political and strategic campaign director for the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO. “All of society benefits from paid family leave, not just the people who are taking the leave.”

Yet despite these known benefits, the United States is one of only two countries with no national paid maternity leave for mothers (96 countries also offer paid paternity leave). The federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) ensures unpaid family leave for eligible employees, but this guarantee is available to fewer than 50 percent of workers. And it’s unpaid. What does this mean on the ground? One-quarter of working mothers will have to return to work within two weeks of bringing a new child home. One-quarter of all poverty spells in our country stem from the act of having a baby.

While efforts to establish a national paid parental leave law have so far failed, progress is happening in both the private sector and at the state legislative level. Hear this, Washington state parents: Our turn could be right around the corner. Advocates say this state is closer than ever to passing a program that would, quite literally, change the way workers from Seattle to Spokane, from Kirkland to Kennewick, become parents and navigate both family life and work life after that milestone. Like the handful of states that have led the charge launching paid family leave, Washington state is on the cusp of something big.

So what does this possible change — a major upgrade to our lives that would affect attorneys, kindergarten teachers and grocery clerks alike — need to move from imagination to implementation? You.

Full Story: ParentMap »

The Department of Labor’s proposed paid leave rule could set a new standard for inclusion

Last Labor Day, the movement to ensure that everyone has the ability to take paid sick leave scored a major victory when President Obama signed an executive order to provide employees of federal contractors with paid time for personal or family health needs.

Now, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) is poised to set another standard that further demonstrates the ways the federal government serves as one of our country’s model employers. The DOL is proposing rules that will not only determine how many people are covered by family leave, but also how “family” is defined.

Read more: Jobs with Justice »

Workplace Flexibility Matters For Men, Women And Your Bottom Line

Brendon-Schrader-Antenna

Brendon Schrader, founder of Antenna, a Minneapolis-based firm that delivers experienced marketing professionals to companies of all sizes.

[Via Forbes.com] For many years, when we talked about “workplace flexibility” or “flex time,” most people really only thought it applied to working mothers. But workplace flexibility has always been something fathers value, too. And the conversation about flexible work is becoming more and more gender-inclusive.

A flexible workplace has always been important to me: early in my career as an aspiring professional, then a corporate employee, and now as a father and entrepreneur. When I worked as a corporate marketer inside a Fortune 500 company, I felt constrained by the traditional work structure and how flexibility was perceived by the organization. Ten years ago, true flexibility just wasn’t accepted. I built my own firm partly to create more flexibility for myself and others who want the same things.

In late 2015, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg announced he’d be taking two months of parental leave following the birth of his first child and expanded the company’s parental leave policy to grant four months of paid leave to all full-time workers (male or female). Although some companies are making stridesto support flex time for all employees, men’s desire and need for flexibility still typically receives little attention from the traditional organization.

Women and men clearly need more flexibility: In a survey by the Pew Research Center, 50 percent of working fathers said it was very or somewhat difficult to balance the responsibilities of their jobs and their families. In my view, we need to include both men and women in the conversation about work flexibility in order to expand this issue and create supportive, positive workplaces for every employee and family.

Full Article »

Parental leave shouldn’t be a luxury

noe felix

Columnist Noe Felix, staff writer, Sonoma State Star

America has always prided itself on being a country founded on family morals. Common wisdom seems to dictate that we’re supposed to always put our families above all.

However, when one is starting a family in the United States, that can be more than difficult. The U.S. doesn’t make any effort to help people start families.

Starting a family is especially taxing on men because of the lack of a good paid paternity leave programs. While women are given some paid maternity leave, at a rate that varies from state to state, men are given less opportunities to be with their newborns in the first few months of their lives.

It’s appalling we put more emphasis on men being the main breadwinners, instead of being actual fathers.

According to a study by the Center for Work and Family at Boston College, dads rarely take time off after the birth of their child. In fact, the same study goes on to report that three quarters of men who don’t receive a form of paternity leave take off a week at work. What’s even more shocking is 16 percent of them are unable to take any days off.

What kind of country are we living in if we can’t offer more than a measly week off with pay? Moreover, how must a new father feel if they can’t take any days off from work?

Read more »