When my first child was born, I had access to a wonderful paid leave program through my then-workplace. I had salary continuation, which allowed me to receive 100% of my pay for the duration of my leave. The payments kicked in immediately after I gave birth and lasted for six weeks. I could have taken the full amount allowed by FMLA, but my then-boss pressured me to come back sooner as a major annual event was coming up and he insisted that he needed my help. I managed okay in my return to work, but felt a bit rushed and missed my son. I think that a few more weeks of time off would have been beneficial. I am truly appreciative of my former company’s progressive stance on paid leave.
When my second child was born, I did not have paid leave. I was working for a school system, which allowed me to use FMLA despite the fact that I hadn’t been at my job for a year when my daughter was born ( I had been working there for nearly ten months at the time of her birth). If I had been working at the school for a few more months prior to her birth, I would have been able to use supplemental short term disability insurance if I had signed up for it, which I would have paid for out of pocket. I took the FMLA that was offered when she was born, but was concerned about my lack of income for the time that I was out of work.
When my daughter was born, my husband took a new job and was not around much. I felt incredibly overwhelmed taking care of her and my older son, even with some help from my mother-in-law and mother soon after birth. My daughter also had some minor health concerns and cried a lot. I decided not to go back and instead focused on trying to manage our household on one income for as long as possible, which was very stressful.
A statewide paid leave policy can help those who are impacted by the lack of workplace policies, which is a majority of people. Many people, especially low-wage workers, do not have access to short-term disability policies, which can help to replace lost wages. If workers have access to sick and vacation time, they do not want to have to bank this time to use after the birth of a child or to take care of an ill family member.
A state wide paid leave policy would greatly benefit everyone who does not have access to work place family leave, but would have a greater financial impact and benefit for those who need it most. I think about how much stress I was under as part of a two parent family struggling to make ends meet on one salary, but I couldn’t imagine what it would have been like if I had been on my own trying to support my family. All Connecticut residents deserve to have assistance to remain stable financially at times of economic challenge, including after the birth or adoption of a child and when the need arises to assume care taking duties for a sick or hurt family member. Connecticut needs to pass comprehensive paid family and medical leave legislation in the next legislative term!