Click here to read our full issue brief, Work and Family Life: Creating a Better Balance.
No working parent with a sick child should have to choose between making ends meet at work and taking time off to care for his or her child. Senator Crawford has introduced LB 850, which would implement paid family leave in Nebraska. This bill will make it so employees will be able to take 12 weeks of job-secured leave to care for a new child (including a newly adopted child or newly placed foster child) or for a personal sickness, and 6 weeks to take care of a family member, a covered service member who is next of kin, or for exigency leave.
LB 850 is scheduled for a hearing today in front of the Business and Labor Committee at the Legislature, and we encourage you to contact your state senator to tell him or her to support LB 850. You can find your senator’s contact information here.
Currently, the existing federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) guarantees
- 12 weeks of job-secured leave per year to employees who need to care for a new child, an ailing family member, or for their own health condition.
However, the FMLA has a couple of major downsides:
- Only employees working at companies that employ 50 or more are eligible.
- The leave is unpaid.
These stipulations leave many workers unable to take leave because they are either ineligible or they cannot afford to take unpaid time off. Therefore, while the FMLA is a step in the right direction for working families, it does not solve everything.
The implementation of a paid family leave policy would give help provide financial peace of mind for workers when they need to care for their loved ones. For many families, the birth of a new child is when paid family leave is needed. For new parents, the birth or adoption of a new child is one of the most expensive life events, and is a leading cause of families becoming impoverished.[ii] Alternatively, a growing number of employees nationwide and in Nebraska are beginning to care for their ailing family members. Moreover, four in ten Nebraska caregivers report that they experience a moderate to high amount of financial difficulty due to the costs associated with caring for their families.[iii] Implementing paid family leave would help ensure that working families are supported when providing care.
Implementing paid family leave would also benefit Nebraska businesses as well. For example, small businesses that may not have the resources to compete with larger businesses for employees by offering a generous paid leave plan would benefit from a state-administered paid family leave program. Also, businesses gain from increased employee retention: Women who have access to paid family leave and who take it are 93% more likely to be back to work 9-12 months after a new baby than women who do not have access to leave.[iv] Finally, California, New Jersey, and Rhode Island have successfully implemented paid family leave programs, and a study done on California employers has found that paid family leave has had neutral or positive effect on productivity, worker turnover, and job performance.[v]
In addition to paid family leave, paid sick leave can help ensure that working parents can care for themselves or their children when an illness occurs. This helps reinforce financial security and health for families. For example, a family with two children and one adult earning an average wage would fall below the federal poverty line after missing more than three days of work due to lack of paid sick time.[vi] Giving working parents access to paid sick leave can help them to recover and return to work faster, or spend time caring for a sick child. This measure even benefits businesses by cutting down on the chance that an employee will show up to work sick and be unproductive. In short, paid sick leave is another program that benefits everyone involved.
[i] Voices for Children in Nebraska, Kids Count in Nebraska Report 2014.
[ii] National Partnership for Women & Families, The Family and Medical Insurance Leave Act (The FAMILY Act) (2015).
[iii] Devorah Lanner, “Nebraska Family Caregivers.”
[iv] Linda Houser and Thomas P. Vartanian, Pay Matters: The Positive Economic Impacts of Paid Family Leave for Families, Businesses and the Public (New Brunswick: Rutgers Center for Women and Work, 2012), accessed November 13, 2015, http://cww.rutgers.edu/sites/cww.rutgers.edu/files/documents/publications
[v] Eileen Applebaum and Ruth Milkman, Leaves that Pay: Employer and Worker Experiences with Paid Family Leave in California (Center for Economic and Policy Research, 2011), accessed October 1, 2015, http://www.cepr.net/documents/publications/paid-family-leave-1-2011.pdf.
[vi] E. Gould, E., K. Filion, and A. Green, The Need for Paid Sick Days (Washington DC: Economic Policy Institute, 2011), 6-8.