Paid leave plans should be there for families.
An analysis of demographic data in Hawaii recently release reveals significant and growing need for a national paid family and medical leave plan that covers all working people in the state for serious caregiving and medical reasons.
The analysis conducted by National Partnership for Women & Families kicks off a series of nationwide activities marking next Monday’s 25th anniversary of the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which provides unpaid leave. Across the country, working people, businesses, lawmakers, advocates and others will come together on the ground and online to celebrate the law’s progress, recognize state and private sector innovations and call for a national paid family and medical leave policy for more equitable and family friendly workplaces.
“The FMLA has transformed our workplaces and culture in tremendously positive ways, but these data show that unpaid leave is inaccessible for too many people,” said Debra Ness, president of the National Partnership, which drafted and led the fight for the FMLA. “Working people and families are caught between the demands of their jobs and their families, and as a result, our economy and businesses are not reaching their full potential.”
The Hawaii analysis sheds light on why the failure to guarantee paid family and medical leave is causing conflicts between people’s jobs and their families. Consequences for the economic well-being of families and the state can be serious when people are not able to hold paying jobs while providing and receiving critical care.
“Hawaii families should not have to choose between seeking care for themselves or their loved ones and making ends meet,” said Hawaii Sen. Mazie Hirono. “I will continue to fight for programs and policies that provide much-needed flexibility and security for Hawaii families.”
In 70 percent of Hawaii households with children – nearly 200,000 homes – all parents hold jobs. In Hawaii, 52 percent of Latina mothers and 38 percent of white mothers are key breadwinners for their families. In less than 15 years, the share of Hawaii’s population age 65 and older will grow by more than one-third. A national paid leave plan would reduce the number of working families in Hawaii facing significant economic insecurity when they need to take family and medical leave by 82 percent.
“The 2018 Women’s Legislative Caucus has placed HB2136 and SB2350 – Family Leave Insurance, as a priority in their legislative package,” said Rep. Daynette Morikawa. “These bills establish a family leave insurance program, which requires employees to make contributions into an insurance fund to be used to provide employees with family leave insurance benefits in order to care for a designated person. We know that this initiative is spreading around the nation, and I hope we can pass something out this session.”
Hawaii legislators are considering a paid leave program at the state level. Nationally, the FMLA guarantees unpaid leave, but it is inaccessible to 61 percent of workers in Hawaii because they are not covered by the law or cannot afford to take the unpaid leave it provides.
“At the state level, representatives Aaron Johanson and Roy Takumi have introduced bills to address the need for paid sick and medical leave,” said Rep. Nadine Nakamura. “We must work closely with the private sector to find a path forward together to ensure all workers can, over time, earn time off to deal with a personal or family illness.”
Just 15 percent of US workers have paid family leave through their employers, and fewer than 40 percent have paid medical leave through employer-provided temporary disability insurance. California, New Jersey, Rhode Island and, as of Jan. 1, New York, have paid family leave insurance programs in place. Washington State and the District of Columbia have enacted similar measures that have not yet taken effect. Research shows that existing programs are working, and lawmakers in other states continue to use them as models as they consider programs of their own.
“We now have a powerful body of evidence that shows the widespread benefits of paid family and medical leave, the urgent need for it, and the key components of a meaningful policy that would promote gender and economic equality, strengthen businesses and our economy, and promote the culture change we need,” explained Vicki Shabo, vice president for workplace policies and strategies at the National Partnership. “Lawmakers who advance strong paid leave proposals demonstrate that they understand their constituents’ needs and the value we all place on knowing we can care for our loved ones without risking our jobs.”
The Family And Medical Insurance Leave (FAMILY) Act, sponsored by Sen. Gillibrand (D – N.Y.) and Rep. DeLauro (D – Conn.), is the leading paid family and medical leave proposal in Congress. Sens. Hirono and Schatz and Reps. Gabbard and Hanabusa are co-sponsors of the legislation.
“Our current national family leave policies fall behind every other industrialized nation and leave millions of people choosing between their family’s health and financial stability,” said Rep. Tulsi Gabbard. “This is why I’ve cosponsored the FAMILY Act — to protect and empower working parents and families in Hawaii and across the country.”
The FAMILY Act would create a national insurance program, similar to those in the states, that would be funded through small employer and employee contributions of 0.2 percent each (less than $1.50 per week each for a typical worker). It would allow workers to take up to 12 weeks of leave for serious family or medical reasons while receiving a portion of their pay.
“Too many families work multiple jobs and long hours to provide for the basic needs of their families,” Rep. Colleen Hanabusa said. “The FAMILY Act creates a cost-effective and broad paid leave policy that would provide at least 12 weeks of paid leave for workers facing health and family issues.”
“My hope is that the FAMILY Act will pass Congress and be signed into law soon because Hawaii workers should not have to choose between taking care of their families in an emergency or working in order to pay a mortgage,” she added. “No family should face that.”