Paid Leave

Due to a widespread lack of paid family and medical leave, workers have to make difficult choices between their careers and their caregiving responsibilities precisely when they need their paychecks the most, such as following the birth of a child or when they or a loved one falls ill. This lack of choice often leads workers to cut their leave short. It can also lead workers to forgo much-needed pay, leave the labor force altogether, or make poor-quality care arrangements for their children or other loved ones.

Our current lack of paid family leave requires workers to make impossible choices between work and family and hampers their economic security, and this burden clearly falls disproportionately on women. However, the solution to this problem is achievable: some individual companies have implemented their own family leave policies, almost all industrialized nations have a comprehensive national paid family leave program, and a small number of states have created successful family leave insurance programs. EARN groups are working to expand access to paid leave through all of these channels. In some cities and states, they are working on laws that would require employers to provide their employees with paid family leave. In others, they are helping to craft government insurance programs that would supplement wages during leave, and encouraging federal lawmakers to consider similar programs nationwide.

Publications

Details Matter: Paid Family and Medical Leave that Works for Working Families

Paid family and medical leave has become a top-tier policy issue. Over the past several years, a number of high-profile corporations have announced new and expanded paid parental leave programs. However, access to paid family leave remains primarily available to the already privileged. In 2017, only 13 percent of private sector employees had access to paid family leave, including 24 percent of the most highly paid tenth, but only 4 percent of the lowest paid tenth. If left solely to private sector initiative, most U.S. workers will continue to lack access to extended paid leaves to care for a new child or deal with serious health conditions. Workers who already face obstacles to achieving and maintaining good health and economy security will largely be left behind, including those in smaller companies, lower-income employees, workers of color, and gig economy workers.

The policy that Washington adopted is a strong one, based on public health research, learnings from other state programs, and community input. But it is not perfect. The discussion below points to best current practices and options to consider in designing a new program.

Hour Crisis: Unstable Schedules in the Los Angeles Retail Sector

The retail sector is an integral part of the Los Angeles landscape with almost half a million
workers in the county, and 147,157 workers in the city. Retail makes up one-tenth of
the private sector workforce in the county and is its second largest employer. Yet more
than half of the county’s workforce earn low wages. In the past few years, local and
statewide policies have focused on transforming low-wage work, including a raise in the
minimum wage, increased worker protections, and required paid time off. Despite the
statewide strengthening of workers’ rights protections, the unreliable hours and unpredictable
schedules endemic in the retail industry mean these benefits become inaccessible
to many workers. In part, the retail industry relies on scheduling practices that are
not good for workers, such as forcing them to wait for their weekly schedules with only
a few days notice. These practices not only undercut workers’ hours and their expectations
thereof, but also their incomes, and can make it nearly impossible for workers to
realize full and healthy lives.

Hour Crisis: Unstable Schedules in the Los Angeles Retail Sector explores worker hours
and scheduling practices for “frontline floor” staff that include salespersons, cashiers,
stockers, and food workers in large and chain stores. We used a participatory and research
justice approach and worked with students, workers, and community partners to
collect and analyze the data. Using mixed-sampling methodology, we collected a total
of 818 surveys. In addition, we analyzed government data and conducted an extensive
review of existing policy and academic literature on the topic.

Lawmakers Agree On Paid Family Leave, But Not The Details

“The only way to make these programs universal, the only way to be sure that the waitress or the retail clerk has access to these programs, that every child gets the benefit of having a parent at home, that every elder has loving family surrounding them in their last days — the only way to do that is through social insurance,” said Economic Opportunity Institute Policy Director Marilyn Watkins.

A new way forward: 10 ways to support Ohio’s working people

State policy can also rig the system against workers. The Ohio legislature has barred local governments from improving working conditions, banned local hire ordinances that help set aside work for local residents, and passed tax cuts that favor the wealthiest Ohioans at the expense of our roads, schools and health care. But there are solutions. We can strengthen Ohio’s working people and create an economy that works for everyone by helping workers to speak up together, raising wages, and investing in communities instead of corporations.

State and federal policy makers can make sure all Ohio’s working people – not just the top 1 percent – can enjoy a decent life free from economic insecurity. Although this is by no means a definitive list[5], this report offers a new path forward with practical policy solutions that can be implemented today.