Building an Economy that Works for Everyone

For Mom: Supporting paid family and medical leave

Mother’s Day is just around the corner, and I’ve been thinking long and hard about how to honor my mom for all the sacrifices she has made for me and my siblings over the last four decades.

My ever-busy mom worked throughout her child-rearing years. And while she has enjoyed her career, I know it was quite a challenge to manage work demands while raising kids. Lots of moms are in the same boat – always trying to squeeze a 25th hour into the day. In Washington, nearly two-thirds of moms with kids at home are in the labor force, juggling family and work responsibilities day in and day out.

But when crisis strikes, even the best jugglers may drop a ball or two. When I was 10, I suffered a serious injury that required hospitalization and months of recovery. Fortunately, my parents were able to piece together their vacation and sick leave to ensure someone was always with me during those first critical weeks.

But even my parents’ solution – a patchwork of paid time off – often isn’t available to many workers, especially those working low-wage jobs. For low-wage earners, a family crisis might mean forgoing a paycheck or even losing their job. Access to paid family and medical leave would spare them the difficult choice of sacrificing financial stability for the well-being of a family member.

So this Mother’s Day, I’m honoring working moms (and dads!) by supporting family and medical leave insurance (FMLI). FMLI ensures workers are able to receive some compensation while caring for family member, or recovering from their own illness or injury. But the importance of FMLI extends beyond financial stability. FMLI benefits:

  • Children – FMLI increases the duration of breastfeeding, and improves children’s health, social and educational outcomes.
  • Seniors – FMLI makes it easier for adult children to care for their aging parents, instead of relying on an expensive nursing home.
  • Women – The gender wage gap widens with age, especially during child-rearing years, creating lifelong economic insecurity for women. FMLI helps expand work opportunities and level the playing field.
  • Workers – As Washington’s workforce ages, more spouses – and workers themselves – are at risk of developing serious health problems. FMLI allows people to get the care they need then return to work.
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Policy brief: Evaluating FMLI for Washington State

Researchers have also found that FMLI benefits businesses by increasing worker retention and boosting morale and worker productivity. Further, FMLI frees up public funds by helping families avoid public assistance, promoting family care for seniors, and giving all kids a strong and healthy start in life.

For more information about family and medical leave insurance, please see EOI’s latest brief Evaluating Family and Medical Leave Insurance for Washington State.

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