Employees and Responsive Workplaces
More and more, workers' responsibilities on the job keep them from caring for their families. Some employers have adapted by focusing on the needs of their greatest assets - their employees. These workplaces adopt policies including part-time equity, flexible scheduling, advance notification of schedules, guaranteed minimum hours, teleworking options, and more. Appropriate responsive workplace policies differ, depending on industries and workers' characteristics. For example, while flexible scheduling may be important for some workers, for others, having a consistent and predictable number of hours per week and a schedule that they know at least some weeks ahead of time is crucial. CLASP's work on responsive workplaces focuses on policy solutions that prevent workers from having to abandon family or community and enable them to meet work obligations without sacrificing their health and economic security. Providing employees with the time to care for short or long term illness or the arrival of a new child is one aspect of a responsive work place. Laws ensuring these protections for workers are beginning to emerge across the country (see "Employees and Time Off Work").
Mar 1, 2017 | PERMALINK »
President Trump Wants to Help Working Families, But Which Families?
The United States is long overdue in embracing policies that would make it easier for working families to both do their jobs and care for their families. In his first speech to Congress, President Trump expressed his desire to make child care affordable and ensure new parents have access to paid family leave. Unfortunately, his campaign promises and proposals to-date do little to advance public policy in these areas and run counter to getting help to those who need it the most.
In the United States, just 14 percent of civilian workers have access to paid family leave to care for a new child or seriously ill family member—and only four percent of the lowest-income workers have access. While a growing number of states (now five) have passed paid family leave laws, workers in most of the country are often forced to choose between caring for their families and their economic security. Moreover, only about 60 percent of workers are eligible for unpaid, job-protected leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), the only federal leave law. But of those parents who are eligible for FMLA, fewer than 40 percent can afford to go without pay while taking leave. In addition, just 38 percent of workers have access to medical leave to address their own serious health issues.
Parents everywhere struggle to pay the high costs of child care but none more than the lowest-income earners. On average, low-income parents who pay for child care spend 30 percent of their household budget on child care expenses, compared to just 7 percent for higher-income families. The vast majority of low-income families—85 percent—who could qualify for federal child care assistance to help with the staggering costs of care get no help because state and federal governments have failed to invest sufficiently in the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG), our country’s primary child care assistance program.
Trump’s plan would do little to address our policy failures for working families. In his address last night, Trump professed a desire to provide paid family leave for new parents. During his campaign, Trump proposed a plan that would offer too few weeks of leave and provide too little wage replacement to make the program viable for low-income families. It also left out other important caregiving and health needs of today’s working families; millions of workers need to be able to care for seriously ill family members (not just new babies) and recover from their own illnesses without risking their economic security. Trump also proposed a financing mechanism—relying on dollars from fraud in the unemployment insurance system—which would not only be insufficient to support the (already inadequate) proposal, but also raise numerous challenges for implementation.
Instead of this poorly designed approach, the president should support the recently introduced Family and Medical Insurance Leave (FAMILY) Act, a federal bill that proposes an inclusive policy modelled on successful state programs. It would enable workers to take up to 12 weeks of paid leave to bond with a new child, care for a seriously ill family member, or recover from their own serious illness. The program would be funded with small contributions from employers and employees, using a social insurance model that is particularly appealing to small businesses.
Trump’s child care proposal is no less flawed. His plan—the bulk of which is a tax deduction proposal for child care expenses—is inherently regressive with the largest benefits going to wealthy families. (This is within the context of a tax reform agenda that would even further advantage the wealthy and corporations and reduce government revenue for funding critical programs and services.) Because most low-income parents do not earn enough to have federal tax liability, they would not benefit at all from this part of the plan. The proposal includes other tax savings mechanisms that also advantage the wealthy and are virtually unusable for low-income families. To address the child care needs of low-income families, Trump’s plan offers a child care “rebate” for low-income families. The rebate would cover just a small share of child care expenses, less than 8 percent, and the size of the benefit would pale in comparison to what higher-income families would receive from other components of the proposal. Moreover, a rebate will not help low-income families pay unaffordable child care bills upfront.
Trump’s plan falls far short of addressing the critical problems of child care affordability and quality. Families need help affording child care. But paying for child care is only part of the problem. Tax strategies will do nothing to advance quality improvements necessary to ensure that children have access to enriching settings. Central to quality is the child care workforce, who despite the high costs of care, earn very low wages. The best way to help low- and moderate-income families and improve child care quality for all children is investing in CCDBG, which provides direct assistance to help families afford the high cost of child care. CCDBG also builds the quality of child care by providing funds to states for quality improvement activities, including monitoring compliance with critical health and safety standards, and for the training and professional development of child care and early childhood educators.
Investing in affordable child care and paid family and medical leave should be a national priority. Together, these critical supports for working families add up to a strategy that is good for children, families, employers, and our economy. Congress and the President should acknowledge the real challenges of working families and find solutions that help those most in need—and who have the most to gain.
- Felicia J. Onuma | Apr 15, 2015 One year later, the results of Jersey City’s Earned Sick Days law are promising
- Liz Ben-Ishai | Feb 24, 2015 Inequities in Paid Sick Days Access, “No-Fault” Attendance Policies Show Need for Public Policy
- Liz Ben-Ishai | Aug 15, 2014 Starbucks’ Scheduling Changes are a Start, But We Need Public Policies
- Lauren French | Aug 05, 2014 Local, National Initiatives Aim to Improve Working Conditions for Low-Wage Workers
- Scott Behson | Jun 09, 2014 Paternity Leave for All Dads
- Liz Ben-Ishai | Mar 03, 2017 CLASP Testimony Re: Fast Food and Fair Workweek Legislation
- By Hannah Matthews and Liz Ben-Ishai | Mar 01, 2017 President Trump Wants to Help Working Families, But Which Families?
- Liz Ben-Ishai | Feb 16, 2017 CLASP Testimony Re: Bill No. 747, An Act Prohibiting “On-Call” Shift Scheduling
- Liz Ben-Ishai | Feb 15, 2017 CLASP Testimony in Support of Expanding Job Protection to Caregivers - SB 63
- Liz Ben-Ishai | Feb 07, 2017 FAMILY Act rides wave of momentum into Congress