Did you know that July 22nd is Parents’ Day? While much lesser known than Mother’s or Father’s Day, Parents’ Day is a time to celebrate parents for raising the next generation. It also reminds us to reflect on how hard parents work – whether it is in the home, the workforce, or both. Balancing work and family is challenging for parents, and they deserve workplace policies that provide them adequate time off to attend to their needs and their families’ needs without risking their economic security. That’s where paid family and medical leave would make a difference for parents in Montana.
While the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) of 1993 was a first step, the law only guarantees unpaid leave and only covers employees who work at least 1,250 hours for the employer during the 12-month period immediately preceding their leave and works at a location where the employer has at least 50 employees. This policy leaves many working Americans out. Forty percent of working Americans are not covered by the Family and Medical Leave Act and of the workers who do qualify, 46 percent state that they cannot afford unpaid leave.
As a result, states have started to enact their own family and medical leave policies. Today, six states and the District of Columbia, provide businesses and employees access to paid family and medical leave programs.
In 2017, MBPC and partner organizations proposed a Montana paid family medical leave insurance program, FAMLI). The FAMLI Act would combine small amounts from employees and employers (less than one percent of wages) to create a dedicated funding stream for workers when they need time off to care for themselves or a loved one. From these small contributions, workers would receive a portion of their wages while on leave. There are numerous economic, social and health benefits for moms, dads, as well as businesses and the overall workforce in Montana. Here are just a few examples:
- Paid Leave Improves Working Families’ Financial Security and Health
- Paid leave helps women remain employed, earn more, and progress in their careers. In Montana, women comprise 48% of the workforce, 70% of children live in families where both parents work, and many households rely on female breadwinners for income support.
- Paid Leave Helps Businesses Attract and Retain Skilled Workers
- Paid leave helps businesses save money through reduced employee turnover rates. To replace a worker earning $75,000 annually, an employer faces a potential cost equal to 30% of the original employee’s income to recruit and train a new replacement.
- Paid Leave Strengthens the Economy
- Encouraging labor force participation among women and low-wage workers improves their financial security and helps stimulate local economies. Paid leave in Montana could keep tens of millions of dollars in the pockets of workers who will turn around and spend these dollars at local businesses, which stimulates the overall economy.
- Family friendly policies could reduce public assistance use. Women with access to temporary disability insurance or paid family leave report receiving an average of $577 less in assistance income in the year following their child’s birth. Low-income women report receiving $800 less. Reducing public assistance use could save taxpayers.
When both parents have access to workplace policies that help them balance work and family demands, everyone wins. So, whether or not you are a parent, we can all agree that moms and dads make a lot of sacrifices to support their kids. The staff at MBPC is excited to continue to work with organizations and families across the state to find Montana solutions to better support workers and their families.