We are in the middle of a caregiving crisis: millions of people in the US can't afford to be with their families in the moments that matter most. Yet, the boldness of proposed solutions have failed to match the scale of that crisis. Now, a new report in partnership with Georgetown Center on Poverty and Inequality outlines a new approach, based on what doctors and scientists say that families need.
WHAT FAMILIES NEED
Six Months of Paid Family Leave
Evidence shows that families need up to six months of paid family leave. A policy should also be flexible for unique caregiving and medical needs.
"I didn’t notice right away that I had postpartum depression. I only realized it when I spoke to the counselor that was assigned to my oldest son and she noticed that I didn’t want my kids to be near me. I would cry for no reason."
— Jimena De La Rosa, California. Six months of paid family leave would mean that Jimena and women like her have time to recover mentally and physically after birth.
Everyone pays in a little and gets support when they need it. This is already successful in California, New Jersey, Rhode Island, New York, Washington, the District of Columbia, and Massachusetts.
"The application process was a learning experience for everyone. My supervisors initially stated that as I was not a new mother, I may not qualify for FMLA leave. After some back and forth over email and consulting the new HR manual and federal regs, they allowed me to apply through our corporate office and humbly apologized, explaining that in all their time overseeing 100+ employees, they had never had a father try to take leave under the FMLA. I was the first one in the office to do so. "
— David Milender, Ohio. Federal paid family leave accessible to everyone equally would mean fathers like David can take leave when they need to.
Everyone Means Everyone
Paid family leave must include parental, caregiving, and medical leave. It must also include all workers — including those working in the gig economy.
"Caregiving has affected my family for close to twenty years... Now my grandfather is 97, and we had to move him from a mobile home in Massachusetts to St. Louis, Missouri, so that he could live with my uncle. We will need to sell Grandpa's mobile home in order to pay for a nursing home, but nobody has the vacation time left to deal with the problem. We are all out of time, money, and energy."
— Adam Whittier, Washington. Paid family leave needs to include caregiving leave for families like Adam's, where family members are caring for multiple sick and aging loved ones.
There must be job protections and anti-retaliation policies for all individuals who take leave.
"We need paid family leave to be able to coordinate proper care for my mother-in-law and figure out a plan. I have had to take sick days to try and coordinate care, but we all fear losing our jobs for taking too much time off of work. It's a heavy burden on all of us and we need PFL to be able to provide the proper care my MIL deserves and to spend time to figure out what our solution will be to this ongoing battle."
— Arissa Palmer, California. Job protection would mean that people like Arissa, in the sandwich generation and caring for children and older family members, do not fear losing their job or demotion when they take leave.
Full Wage Replacement
To reduce poverty and improve gender equity, policies must ensure full wage replacement for the lowest-paid workers.
"Our family needs my full paycheck to make ends meet. Six weeks after I gave birth to my son I had to start weaning him from breastfeeding so that he wouldn’t get too used to it when I had to go back to work. If I didn’t have to go back to work so quickly, I would still be breastfeeding. "
— Mayra Lopez, California. Fully replacing income for the lowest-paid workers would mean that women like Mayra do not have to return to work befor they are ready.
This report is a joint project of the Georgetown Law Economic Security and Opportunity Initiative and PL+US: Paid Leave for the U.S.