Sick Days and Family Medical Leave
The nation has entered an exciting new era that will allow millions of lower-wage workers to access health care insurance. Tragically, many of these workers will be unable to take advantage of this historic new benefit because they cannot take time off of work to get the care they need due to lack of earned sick days. With no job protections or paid sick leave, these workers face impossible choices between taking time to access healthcare for themselves or their loved ones and potentially losing wages or even their jobs.
At the same time, the nation is celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), an historic act that allowed many workers time to care for themselves or their loved ones. However, many workers are unable to take advantage of this policy, which guarantees only unpaid leave, because they cannot afford to take to with family without pay. Many more remain ineligible for even unpaid leave, because their employer is exempt from the policy or they have insufficient tenure in their job.
As part of its work life and job quality work, CLASP advocates for state and federal earned sick days and paid family and medical leave insurance policies that will prevent more workers from being denied the time to tend to their own or a family member's health, or care for a new child. Across the country, campaigns to secure these workplace protections for all workers are gaining momentum.
Jan 22, 2015 | PERMALINK »
President Obama’s Two-Generation Strategy: Right Package, Right Time
President’s Obama’s domestic priorities outlined in Tuesday’s State of the Union address encompass a thoughtful and timely package—not simply a laundry list—to help poor and low-income families lift themselves into the middle class. CLASP has long advocated for these priorities and strategies because we think that, taken together, they support families and add up to a far greater impact together than any of them could have alone. We are delighted to see the president’s approach reflects this same judgment.
The president’s proposals on community college, child care, paid leave, and tax credits embrace a two-generation approach to addressing poverty that recognizes the importance of supporting both parents and children. Two-generation policies reflect strong research findings that the well-being of parents is inextricably linked to children’s social-emotional, physical, and economic well-being. At the same time, parents’ ability to succeed in school and the workplace is substantially affected by how well their children are doing. Because more than 70 percent of poor children live in families with at least one worker, it is essential that we address the needs of both children and their parents in thinking about the workplace as well as the home. And 26% of community college students are parents–a policy opportunity for helping both generations that CLASP focused on in a panel discussion at a public forum last summer featuring experts and practitioners from the worlds of postsecondary education and early care and education.
CLASP believes the president’s focus on the following initiatives is directly responsive to the needs of today’s struggling families:
- Free community college. In describing his plan for community college, President Obama said, “Forty percent of our college students choose community college. Some are young and starting out. Some are older and looking for a better job. Some are veterans and single parents trying to transition back into the job market. Whoever you are, this plan is your chance to graduate ready for the new economy, without a load of debt.” Between 2008 and 2012, the proportion of college students who had low incomes rose dramatically, from 40 percent of undergraduate students with incomes under 200 percent of the federal poverty level in 2008, to 51 percent in 2012. Without income to cover basic living expenses, these students will most likely have to work more to cover direct and indirect college costs, increasing time to degree completion. The president’s plan to pay for community college tuition would help cover the overall cost of attendance, allowing low-income students to use some of their Pell grants to pay for books, transportation, and living expenses.
- Child Care. As President Obama forcefully stated, “It’s not a nice-to-have — it’s a must-have. It’s time we stop treating child care as a side issue, or a women’s issue, and treat it like the national economic priority that it is for all of us.” When families are able to access quality child care, children are better prepared for success in life and parents are more likely to succeed on the job as they gain peace of mind from knowing their child is well cared for and thriving. Together, these two goals are critical to our nation’s economic competitiveness now and in the future. Moreover, bipartisan support late last year for the reauthorization of the Child Care and Development Block Grant underscores that this issue has traction.
- Paid Leave. Millions of Americans are currently losing wages and jobs in order to care for their families and their health. Almost all (95 percent) workers in the lowest 25 percent of wage earners have no paid family leave, and 70 percent of these same workers have no access to earned sick days. The Administration’s call for Congress to pass the Healthy Families Act, federal earned sick days legislation, and proposed investments in state-level paid family and medical leave programs demonstrate a keen awareness of working families’ needs. In addition to helping families, these actions will create a more effective workforce—improving the bottom lines of businesses and driving economic growth.
- Tax reform. In another strong signal in support of working families, President Obama stated the importance of “helping folks afford child care, college, health care, a home, retirement [by] lowering the taxes of working families, and putting thousands of dollars back into their pockets each year.” His strategy? Strengthening the Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit, both of which been shown to effectively help lift families out of poverty, as well as expanding the American Opportunity Tax Credit for higher education costs, the tax credit for families paying for child care, and creating a new credit to help two-earner families with work expenses.
We applaud this strategic vision that offers a ladder up to the middle class for hard-working poor and low-income families by addressing the needs of both children and their parents. Achieving the American dream by helping struggling hard-working families improve their skills, take care of their children, and better their and their children’s prospects ought to be something we can all agree on. It’s the right package at the right time.
- Lauren French | Jun 13, 2014 Conference Explores Connections Between Low-Wage Work and Child Poverty
- Scott Behson | Jun 09, 2014 Paternity Leave for All Dads
- Liz Ben-Ishai | Jun 06, 2014 Getting Down to Business Newsletter - June 2014
- Lauren French | May 14, 2014 Growing Attention on Paid Leave as a Dimension of Inequality
- Lauren French | May 08, 2014 The FAMILY Act is Best for Babies
- Liz Ben-Ishai | Nov 10, 2014 Implementing Earned Sick Days Laws: Top Tips from Connecticut, San Francisco, Seattle and New York City
- CLASP | Sep 16, 2014 New Census Data Tell Us That Poverty Fell in 2013
- Aug 28, 2014 A Job Creation and Job Quality Agenda for Labor Day
- CLASP | Jul 12, 2014 Steps to Implement D.C.’s Earned Sick and Sick and Safe Leave Amendment Laws
- Jun 06, 2014 Getting Down to Business Newsletter - June 2014