As Mother’s Day approaches, we honor, remember, and celebrate all of the strong women in our lives. Women have proven throughout history that they are the backbone of society. Eleanor Roosevelt served as head of the U.N. Human Rights Commission and played a key role in drafting the U.N. Declaration of Human Rights. Michelle Obama has proven to be a trailblazer in her work as a lawyer and in leading the federal initiative to reverse childhood obesity. After centuries of achieving seemingly intangible goals, how is it that women are unable to receive proper family and medical leave?
The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is a federal law that exists to help workers balance the responsibilities between family and work. FMLA will guarantee job-protected, unpaid leave for up to 12 weeks to care for a newborn or newly adopted child; care for a seriously ill child, parent or spouse; or recovery from a serious illness. Although FMLA allows workers to care for their family without risking their job, many families cannot afford 12 weeks of unpaid work. The result is that 12% of mothers return to work less than a week after giving birth. The FMLA only covers some working people; it requires that an organization must have more than 50 employees, and the employee must have worked for at least 12 months before the employer has to offer unpaid leave. This is especially harmful for not only mothers, but also to the nearly two-thirds of NC workers aged 45+ who need time off to provide care to a parent, spouse, or other relative.
Despite those daunting statistics, there is hope. Paid family and medical leave policies are popping up all across the country, and even some cities and counties here in NC have passed policies offering paid leave to their employees. Paid leave provides many tangible benefits to organizations. When businesses implement paid leave policies, employees are 93% more likely to return to their jobs. This in turn saves the business money because it costs up to five times an employee’s yearly wage to permanently replace them–not to mention a loss in productivity and employee morale. The infant mortality rate in North Carolina has risen to 7.3 deaths per 1,000 live births; data shows that 23 babies would be saved in NC each year if we simply offer mothers and families 10 weeks of paid leave.
I credit the successes in my life to my amazing mother and grandmothers. If not for their strength and resilience, I would not have had the support and love that has given me the opportunity to live a strong and healthy life. Beyond that, I have watched my mother assume the role of caregiver when my grandparents were in need. My heart aches to imagine a situation where she would have had to choose between caring for her family or permanently losing her job. This Mother’s Day, while you celebrate the incredible women in your life, I also urge you to consider supporting the case for paid family and medical leave. The Federal And Medical Insurance Leave (FAMILY) Act is legislation designed to provide partial pay to employees when they require family or medical leave. To learn more about the FAMILY Act, glance over this factsheet provided by the NC Justice Center. Additionally, you can show your support of the FAMILY Act by signing this letter to Congress provided by MomsRising. For more information on how to get involved, contact Ana Pardo at the NC Justice Center at firstname.lastname@example.org.