If this stack of books is any indication, the issue of family leave and childcare is an ongoing and challenging topic which is why the FAMILY Act is so important. Women are still by and large running the household. Equality at home is few and far between. And families still don't get the support they need to do something as simple as care for their families. As a nation we rank far behind other countries in putting families first, and we are behind in putting women on equal footing with men when it comes to our careers.
"It boils down to simple, basic lack of equality. If policies keep pushing men to rush back to work, how will women keep working up the ranks? Imagine a husband and wife work for the same company, and she outranks him. If she gets paid to leave and he doesn't, the company is giving her an incentive to stay home and him an incentive to stay at work. The chances are that a man will fill in for her while she's out, since in general in America far more men are in higher positions. She loses that time to advance her career; the dad loses the chance to be a caregiver in those critical initial weeks; and the child loses out on having two parents equally well equipped and experienced to handle all the caregiving tasks. The business also loses out, because it doesn't get to keep the best talent regardless of gender." - Josh Levs, former CNN journalist, author of "All In" and the outspoken advocate for family leave
Yesterday Senator Kirsten Gillibrand led a group of 27 Senators to reintroduce the FAMILY Act, a bill that would create a universal, gender-neutral paid family and medical leave program for all workers for the cost of a cup of coffee per week. Families in America are losing $21 billion in annual income, taking time off to care for their children, often never returning to work. This is detrimental to families and to our economy, as businesses also suffer from the loss of qualified employees.
What is the FAMILY Act?
The FAMILY Act creates a self-sustaining family insurance program for all workers – young and elderly, single and married, and men and women, regardless of the size of their employer. Modeled after successful state programs, and costing only as much as a cup of coffee per week, the fund would provide up to 66 percent wage-replacement for 12 weeks in the event of a serious personal or family medical emergency.
“The vast majority of working families don’t have access to paid leave, and as a working mom, I understand the urgency of this problem,” said Senator Gillibrand (D-NY). “Every day that goes by without a national paid family leave program, workers will continue to lose income, they’ll continue to lose their jobs, and businesses will continue to lose employees. We need to pass the FAMILY Act and give every working American access to paid leave when they need it.”
The FAMILY Act will allow working people to take partially paid time off to address their own serious medical condition, including pregnancy and recovery from childbirth; the birth or adoption of a new child; the serious health condition of a child, parent, spouse, or domestic partner; and certain military caregiving and leave needs. More information is available here.
Not only does it cover all American workers, it’s affordable for businesses. It will be funded through minimal employee and employer contributions – less than $1.50 per week for a typical worker. Case studies demonstrate the policy will actually save companies money (including small and medium sized businesses!), because it will improve retention rates and spare businesses the costs of on boarding and training new employees. Some studies suggest America’s GDP would be 2-3% higher with a policy like the FAMILY Act in place.
Why is the FAMILY Act better than what Ivanka Trump is proposing?Ivanka Trump has a plan on the table too. Her plan is strictly a six-week maternity leave plan, leaving out a significant portion of the population, men.... and domestic partners, adoptive parents or anyone who hasn't physically pushed out a baby. (Does that mean moms who have a c-section are excluded too?) The FAMILY Act would recognize the diversity of families and their needs. Couples in a “committed relationship” – including domestic partners – would have paid family leave protections. Workers who need time away from their jobs to care for a domestic partner or a partner’s child – in addition to providing care for a spouse, parent, or biological or adopted child – would be able to do so.
Why is the FAMILY Act important?Women want and need to work. We want to have successful and fulfilling careers. And we want to raise our families too. Unfortunately for too many talented women, staying home to raise children significantly affects our career trajectory. Partially because of the stigma around maternity leave and "stay at home moms" and partially because the few weeks we planned to be home turn into months and then years. The FAMILY Act provides for a more significant window of time off, with the full support of your company and your partner gets time off too.
"The baby years are short and our lives are long. The sad statistical reality is that more than 70 percent of women who return to work after taking only two years off can't find a position comparable to what they had before." - Samantha Ettus and author of The Pie Life
What can you do to support the FAMILY Act?Contact your senators and representatives and tell them this issue matters to you. If you have a personal story, share it when you call. Personal stories matter. Here's a sample script:
Going back to work after having a baby can be daunting. Whether you’re counting down the days (in a good way) or dreading it like doomsday, you’re sure to be running the gamut on emotions, and feeling pressure to get organized.