During the 2016 Connecticut legislative session, a paid family and medical leave act made significant progress to passage in the state. While it fell short, support continues to be high. But wait, you may ask. Doesn’t the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) already give us protection to take time off??
When the FMLA passed in Connecticut years ago, we were on the forefront of protecting workers who needed family and medical leaves. However, among other differences, FMLA protects leaves, but that protection is UNPAID.
WHAT? FAMILY EXPENSES DO NOT TAKE A LEAVE WHEN AN EMPLOYEE IS OFF!
This is the difference between being left in the wild to fend for yourself and having a map with snacks and water along the way to lead you back home.
While some employers do offer their employees paid leave, that offering is a personal decision by the employer, and neither universal nor a requirement. FMLA does nothing to ensure that employees contemplating a leave will have a safety net of pay during their leave. This often means workers are left choosing between their job/paycheck and their family. This choice is neither sustainable nor healthy in Connecticut, where more than 70 percent of married couples with children under the age of 18 have both spouses in the workforce.
As the 2017 Connecticut Legislative session has just started, now is a perfect time to push for earned paid family and medical leave. There are already states that have passed such legislation and have a history to give guidance on how paid leave acts work. We need not reinvent nor invent the wheel. We can see what has worked and the positive impacts such policies have made in other states. Moreover, with much discussion in the local news over the last year about Connecticut’s need to attract and keep the skilled workforce of the next generation, the existence of a statewide program allowing employees to choose their families and themselves—without having to lose careers or face significant financial problems—is exactly the innovation the next generation (and the rest of us!) deserve and should demand.
Stay tuned for ways you can get involved to help make sure earned paid family leave passes this Legislative session.
Nichole Berklas serves as Connecticut NOW’s representative to the Connecticut Campaign for Paid Family Leave.