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The Family Leave Gap

Photo by Mamamusings
Not my actual baby

As I write this, my 8-month-old is sitting on the floor of my office.  His daycare is closed today, and I am lucky enough to work in a place where my boss and coworkers don’t mind occasional office visits from a baby (or if they do mind, they are putting up with it anyway), but not all Nebraskans are so fortunate.

In Nebraska, we pride ourselves on family values, but in spite of this, there is nothing codified in our laws that helps to ensure that we are able to care for our families when we need to.  When babies are born or adopted, parents need time away from work.  When we, our spouses, parents, or children are sick or injured, we may also need time away from the office.

Under federal law, employers with 50 or more employees are required to allow employees up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for family and medical reasons.   But what about all the Nebraskans who work for small businesses?  Or those who can’t afford to take unpaid time off?

For people in those circumstances, there is little to protect their jobs — and nothing to replace their income — when they need time away to care for a family member or medical issue.  This lack of protection has consequences for individuals, families and businesses.Research has  found that paid family leave benefits not only individuals and families and but also employers who are able to retain employees that they otherwise may have lost and taxpayers who see reduced reliance on public benefit programs by those who have to leave their job for family or medical reasons.

Only 2 states, California and New Jersey, offer paid family and medical leave, while several others have added protections that extend beyond what is required by federal law.  Internationally, the United States is a an outlier among industrialized nations in failing to offer paid family leave.

What this means for many workers is that they are forced to make difficult choices — when a child is sick, when a daycare is closed, when an elderly parent is ill — between caring for those they love the most and being able to pay the bills.

We have all heard stories from friends who have had challenges with employment due to family or medical issues.  So, we’re curious, have you ever needed time away for family or medical reasons?  And if so, did your employer offer the time or pay you needed?



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