Wonky Word Wednesdays: Paid Leave

If you recall from last week’s Wonky Word, the Family Medical and Leave Act (FMLA) provides eligible workers up to 12 weeks of unpaid and job protected leave. But what about the millions of working Americans that cannot afford to take unpaid leave?

If you’ve been following our blog, it is clear that the MBPC team is focused on paid leave as a solution to enable workers to balance home and work responsibilities. However reading the news and blogs you will notice a number of terms that seem to mean similar things – paid leave, paid family leave, paid family and medical leave, and paid sick leave. All of these simply refer to workplace policies that provide workers a portion of their wages while they take time off work to recover from a serious illness, around the birth or adoption of a child, or to attend to a sick child or elderly parent.

For today’s wonky word, we thought it would be good to define what each variation on paid leave means.

Paid Family Leave: An individual receives a portion of their wages while they take time off to care for a sick family member, including but not limited to a child or elderly parent, or around the birth, adoption, or foster placement of a child. Be careful though, excluding “paid” and just using the terms “family leave” refers to the Family Medical and Leave Act, which we all know is unpaid leave.

Paid Maternity and Paternity Leave: New mothers and fathers take time off around the birth of a child to care and bond with a newborn.

Paid Parental Leave: New parents take leave around the birth, adoption, or foster placement of a child.

Paid Sick Leave: An individual takes time off work to recover from an injury or illness.

As we learned last week, Congress enacted the Family and Medical Leave Act in 1993, but this legislation provides very limited options for women and families balancing household and work demands. The United States is the only advanced economy in the world that does not offer a federal paid family or medical leave program and as a result, 87% of American workers do not have access to paid leave options.

Workers without access to paid leave options have to cobble together a patchwork of employer-provided benefits, like sick and vacation leave and disability insurance, when they need time off to recover from an illness or take care of their child. And, many parents, especially low-income and single parents, cannot afford to go without an income and often have to choose work over caring for a child.

Paid family and medical leave policies allow people to balance home and work demands and remain financially secure as a result. Check back regularly to see our blogs, Wonky Words, and reports and learn more about why paid leave is good for families, businesses, and the economy.

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