Too often, the conversation about paid family and medical leave revolves solely around the need for paid parental leave. Connecticut workers need a paid family & medical leave policy that will not only support new birth, adoptive, and foster parents, but will also benefit and protect employees with serious illnesses and caregivers juggling work and tending to and elderly or ill loved one.
Paid family and medical leave benefits everyone – no matter our age or phase of life. You never know when you or a member of your family will become ill. Paid family and medical leave is one way to plan for the unplanned and is essential to the economic security of Connecticut’s working families.
About a year ago, my mother and I became caregivers to my father who was diagnosed with cancer. At the age of 24, I was a full time student who worked part time with no job security. Though my dad had 8 weeks of leave to undergo and recover from treatment, my mom had access to very little paid time off. On top of the shock of a sudden illness, also came the stress of if we would be able to make ends meet. In the end, we were lucky – my Dad is currently in remission and we didn’t have to sacrifice much during those months of surgery and subsequent recovery.
Not many families can say the same. Without access to paid leave, working caregivers often face significant and emotional strain. Juggling work and care-giving responsibilities often contributes to loss of career opportunities. Nearly 7 in 10 working caregivers report making work-related accommodations because of care-giving responsibilities, including arriving late or leaving early, cutting back on hours, or stopping work entirely.
Not only is paid leave good for families, but it’s good for business and economic growth. Nationally, U.S. businesses lose up to an estimated $33.6 billion in lost productivity, absenteeism, work day distractions, and reduction in hours from full-time, working caregivers. Paid family and medical leave not only allows workers to care for family members without worrying about missing a paycheck or losing their job entirely, but also reduces the costs placed on employers and the state’s economy.
Without access to paid family leave, balancing care-giving with a full time job is often unrealistic. Many workers simply cannot afford to take unpaid time off when serious illness strikes. Paid family and medical leave will allow workers to address their own health needs or the needs of a family member without exiting the labor force.
It’s critical that we start recognizing that paid family and medical leave is an issue that can affect every one of all ages, because no one should be forced to choose their job over the health of a loved one or their own well-being. Not every family is as lucky as mine. It’s time to support all families by passing paid leave in Connecticut.
By Rebecca Yungk, 25, MSW Student