Amidst all the news about President Obama’s 2013 budget in the last few weeks, you may have missed a modest, but important line item.
As outlined here, the newly-created State Paid Leave Fund would provide $5 million to assist states in starting paid family leave insurance programs – programs that would allow workers to take paid time off to care for sick family members and new children.
Right now, North Carolina’s workers don’t have any access to state or federal job-protected paid leave when they need time off to care for a sick relative or to bond with a new child. The federal Family Medical Leave Act offers up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for those working for larger employers, but many North Carolinians can’t afford unpaid leave, especially during a sluggish economy.
Research has shown that family leave insurance is good for caregivers and good for the economy. For instance, a recent study from the Center for Women and Work at Rutgers shows that women with paid leave are more likely to be working 9-12 months after a child’s birth than those without leave. And those who use paid leave are almost 40 percent less likely to need public assistance.
California and New Jersey have implemented family leave insurance programs, which are funded through an employee payroll tax at no cost to employers. North Carolina can follow the lead of these states to ensure that workers do not have to face the impossible choice between being a caregiver and being a provider. The $5 million allotted in the President’s Budget could go a long way in helping states like North Carolina explore and eventually implement a state paid leave system.
Check out the Justice Center’s report on the importance of work-family policies in North Carolina to learn more about family leave insurance and other workplace policies that support workers, families, and our economy.