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Caring and Working

Amelia “Melissa” Bravo of Raleigh fights for paid family leave.

A bevy of reports released this week measure aspects of states’ “family friendly” policies show North Carolina has a lot of room for improvement to accommodate the new reality that most working adults are also being squeezed (or hugged) by caregiving responsibilities for their elders, their children, or both.

The reports come ahead of the White House Summit on Working Families scheduled for Monday, June 23. Almost 30 women from North Carolina will be attending the summit, including a large delegation from Women AdvaNCe and a few from the North Carolina Families Care coalition.

The summit and reports draw much-needed attention to the fact that most adults with children work now, yet most of us still find work-life balance a constant struggle that often forces folks to choose between getting paid and taking care of an ill loved on.

First, The National Partnership for Women and Families report gave North Carolina a “D” for having few protections for working parents beyond federal laws like the Family Medical Leave Act and the Pregnancy Discrimination Act. Those laws have their limitations because they don’t apply to all employers and so leave out millions of workers. They also don’t provide any paid leave, which means many workers, particularly low-income workers—find that they can’t afford to take leave after having a baby, for example.

Some cities and states are passing paid sick leave legislation, creating family medical leave insurance programs that workers pay into, and expanding on the definition of family. North Carolina did get points for offering public employees up to 52 weeks of unpaid leave over a five year period for workers who qualify based on how many hours they have worked. North Carolina also allows public employees to use sick time to care for most family members.

AARP came out with its Long Term Care Scorecard, which ranked North Carolina 28th for the types of supports it offers. The scorecard measures things like affordability and access of care, provider choice and setting, quality of life, and support for family caregivers.

North Carolina ranked 31st for support for family caregivers, but it’s important to note that the ranking was based on 2012 data and doesn’t reflect the state’s overhaul of its unemployment insurance program last year. That law did away with protections that allowed people to collect unemployment insurance if they resigned because of caregiving responsibilities or illness.

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