On September 29, the Connecticut Campaign for Paid Family Leave held its first press conference to release its own recommendations to ensure that a possible system of paid family leave is fair and helps employees stay afloat financially when they need to take time off from work to care for themselves or a loved one.
“While the Campaign for Paid Family Leave appreciates the work of the Task Force in studying the critical issue of paid family and medical leave, we urge Connecticut’s leaders to implement a wage replacement system that will truly benefit workers when they need it the most. To bring workplace policies into the 21st century, we recommend an employee-funded system where eligible employees receive a minimum of 12 weeks’ pay at 75% of their wages, with measures to ensure workers can return to their jobs,” Campaign Co-Chair Catherine Bailey stated in regard to the differences between the campaign’s and legislative task force’s proposals.
Along with several other campaign members, State Representative Peter Tercyak, Co-Chair of the Labor Committee, shared with attendees why the campaign is of personal importance to him. “When my sister had cancer and I was helping to care for her, we took for granted our ability to take a day off from our jobs for her treatments. Only later did I find out that there is no family medical leave for siblings. My boss was that good, knew it made sense, and was good for all: me, the clinic where I worked, my sister, our family, and her medical team. Everybody deserves what my boss was kind enough to give me,” Tercyak said.
Aside from Representative Tercyak and other followers of the campaign, few people realize that paid family leave is more than just an issue with maternity leave. All workers who find themselves struggling to strike a balance between work and family responsibilities – male or female – will benefit from paid family leave. Yes, a system of paid leave will prevent women from suffering financially when taking time off from work after giving birth, but it’s much more than that.
If a potential bill adheres to the campaign’s recommendations, it will also provide support to workers, like Representative Tercyak, who need flexible workplace policies that allow them to take time off – either incrementally for day to day appointments or in full week spans – to care for a sibling fighting a serious health condition. Personally, it took listening to Representative Tercyak’s heartwarming story about his boss’s bending of FMLA rules for me to gain a deeper understanding of the importance of paid family leave for all workers. At 22 years old and the youngest of four children in my family, I am extremely (emphasis on extremely) unsure of when, if and how I will ever need to take maternity leave; however, it would be comforting to know that if my brother or sisters needed me, Connecticut’s system of paid family leave would help me balance a career and being there for my family. Sudden illnesses or health conditions are so often completely out of the blue – as a state that has always supported family friendly policies, Connecticut needs to do more to support workers’ family responsibilities. The Campaign for Paid Family Leave’s recommendation to expand FMLA’s definition of family member to include sibling, grandparent or grandchild is critical in ensuring that the system is fair and meets the needs of all workers. Thank you, Representative Tercyak for emphasizing this issue.
Madeline Granato is a policy and research intern for the Connecticut Women’s Education and Legal Fund, entering her first year as a Master’s in Social Work student.