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 »

Study: Longer maternity leave linked to better infant health

cute baby

Photo: Hebe Aguilera via Flickr Creative Commons

[Original: UPI] For each additional month a woman has paid maternity leave, infant mortality decreases by more than 10 percent, according to a new study of births in 20 countries.

Researchers at McGill University and the University of California Los Angeles found paid maternity leave has a significant impact on infant mortality in low- and high-income countries, echoing previous research that has shown the same.

Paid maternity leave reduces stress, increases the chances for breastfeeding and other infant care, and allows a mother to seek more medical attention for herself after having a baby.

Although 188 countries have guaranteed paid leave for new mothers, though how much varies greatly from country to country — in Canada and some European countries, women get one year of paid time off, while countries such as Papua New Guinea, Suriname and the United States have no guaranteed paid maternity leave.

“While this study focuses on low- and middle-income countries, the impact in high-income countries is also well demonstrated,” Dr. Jody Heymann, a former researcher at McGill and dean of the School of Public Health at the University of California Los Angeles, in a press release. “For the health of our children and the well-being of families, the U.S. needs to catch up with most of the world and ensure all new parents have paid parental leave.”

Full story »

Congratulations on paid family leave, New York!

Photo: ConstantinAB via Flickr Creative Commons

Photo: ConstantinAB via Flickr Creative Commons

We congratulate our New York coalition for years of activism to make theirs the fourth state with paid family leave. This win, the result of engagement by hundreds of organizations and businesses and thousands of individuals, will significantly improve the lives of 7.5 million New Yorkers and their families.

When fully phased in, New York’s plan will turn small employee contributions into 12 weeks of family leave at two-thirds pay to all workers, and include job protection so that workers won’t be dissuaded from taking this essential time to care for their loved ones. Importantly, this agreement came with bipartisan support, after voters from across the state made it clear to their elected officials that babies and cancer affect all of us.

The Washington Work and Family Coalition, together with the 23 other coalitions in the national Family Values @ Work network, commend New York for setting a paid family leave standard for the rest of our country to follow. We know their victory will inspire coalitions in DC, Massachusetts and Connecticut, all vying to be next — and all paving the way for a national paid family leave program.

Learn more about New York’s victory for working families!