Sunday is Mother’s Day! Truly, time is one of the best gifts for moms. Working moms want (and need) time to care for themselves and their loved ones and to be able to earn a paycheck. Unfortunately, many working Americans do not have access to paid leave, putting their and their families’ health and financial security at risk.
But momentum for paid leave is growing. This past year, we saw 18 victories throughout the country, providing families (and moms) more time through paid family leave and paid sick days.
Family Leave Victories
Shifting work and family patterns mean that most parents must work in order to put food on the table. In Montana, 48 percent of the workforce is made up of women, 70 percent of children have both parents in the workforce, and many women are either co-breadwinners or are fully supporting their families. Yet, women are still considered primary caregivers and often have to reduce their work schedules – or leave work entirely – to care for seriously ill loved ones. When this happens, women can lose hundreds of thousands of dollars over their lifetimes, which takes a toll on their ability to provide for their families and contribute to their local businesses and communities.
The United States lags behind every industrialized economy in providing a national paid leave program. However, over the past decade, several states – California, New Jersey, and Rhode Island – have created statewide paid family leave programs to help workers balance home and care demands. Recently, victories in New York, California, and Montana guarantee workers a better balance.
New York – In early April, New York became the fourth state to enact a statewide family leave insurance program, guaranteeing workers a portion of their weekly wages when they have a baby or need time off to care for a seriously ill family member. Workers can access benefits starting January 2018.
California – lawmakers expanded upon the state’s existing paid family leave program and now provide low-wage workers 70 percent of their weekly wages during leave. This will encourage lower-wage workers to use the program when they need it and will ensure they remain financially secure during leave.
San Francisco – Became the first city in the country to require employers to provide fully paid parental leave. Starting in January 2017, employers with more than 50 workers located San Francisco will make up the difference between the state’s plan so that employees will receive 100 percent of their weekly earnings during parental leave.
Missoula – In March, Missoula County Board of Commissioners adopted a paid parental leave policy. Starting July 1st, county employees will have access to six weeks of paid parental leave after the birth or adoption of a new child.
Sick Days Victories
Similar to family leave, access to paid sick days allows workers the time to recover from a routine illness and care for sick children or family members while receiving their wages.
Over the past year, 2 states (Vermont and Oregon), 11 cities, and 1 county have enacted paid sick days laws, guaranteeing over 715,000 workers the right to earn a set number of sick days annually. Over the past decade, sick days victories in 32 locations have provided more than 10 million workers access to paid sick leave.
Moms work hard, whether it is in the home, the workforce, or both. They deserve access to workplace policies that provide them adequate time off to attend to their needs and their families’ needs without risking their economic security. There’s growing support for paid leave policies throughout the country. The staff at MBPC is excited to work with organizations and families across the state to find Montana solutions to better support workers and their families.