This is hardly a surprise, but it’s sobering nonetheless…
New analysis of state policies released this week by the National Partnership for Women & Families ranked North Carolina among the nation’s worst when it comes to providing basic workplace supports to expecting and new parents.
“This should be a wake-up call for our state and federal lawmakers,” said Allan Freyer, director of the NC Justice Center’s Workers’ Rights Project. “North Carolina’s families expect and deserve much better.”
According to the new report, Expecting Better: A State-by-State Analysis of Laws That Help Expecting and New Parents, North Carolina joins 26 other states that have also done little or nothing to advance paid family and medical leave, paid sick days, protections for pregnant workers, and other policies that promote the health and economic well-being of workers and their families when new children arrive.
“‘D’ is an unacceptable grade,” said Beth Messersmith, MomsRising NC Director. “North Carolina needs to do much better by Tar Heel moms, dads, and their families. Paid leave policies not only help ensure families’ economic security, they benefit businesses, the state economy, and public health.”
North Carolina’s workplace policies vary in the private and public sectors, the report finds. North Carolina law does not expand upon federal rights or protections for new and expecting parents who work in the private sector. State workers, however, have greater access to family and pregnancy disability leave under state law than under the federal FMLA. Those who earn sick time can use it for the medical appointments or illness of a family member, including a spouse disabled by pregnancy or childbirth, and can use up to 30 workdays for the adoption of a child.
Parents in low-wage jobs and parents of color are among those most harmed by the lack of family-friendly workplace policies. Low-wage earning parents disproportionately lack access to unpaid family medical leave, employer-provided short-term disability insurance, paid sick days, and employer-provided paid family leave. More than 60 percent of workers earning less than $20,000 a year can access paid sick days, and more than 60 percent of all Hispanic workers and 40 percent of African-American workers lack access to paid sick days, compared to 39 percent of all workers in the state.
“Paid family medical leave is both an economic justice and health issue,” said Erin Byrd, co-convener of the North Carolina Black Women’s Roundtable. “The lack of paid leave tears at the fabric of our community by keeping us from being there for our families when they need us most.”
As this new report makes clear, several other states and cities have made family friendly workplace policies a priority. But, in the end, a patchwork of policies will not be enough to ensure all expecting and new parents in this country – and all working people – no longer have to choose between their jobs and their health or families.
“New and expecting parents in North Carolina deserve more when it comes to paid leave, sick days, and protections for pregnant workers,” said Ailen Arreaza of Parents Together. “Every day we hear from moms and dads making impossible choices between going to work to support their families and being there for their children when they are most vulnerable. As parents, we’d do everything in our power to ensure a better future for our kids. It’s time for our legislature to do the same.