“If I had paid family leave insurance … I wouldn’t have gone bankrupt …”
This is how one local woman shared the economic impact of caregiving on her life. Sad Fact: Papua, New Guinea and the United States of America are the only 2 countries IN THE WORLD which don’t provide for paid family leave for its citizens. Shocking! Isn’t it?
If you think that caregiving financial strains won’t happen to you, consider the following:
- Workers in PA. invest 1.4 billion hours of unpaid time caring for the elderly each year. Pennsylvania has one of the oldest populations in the nation and the state’s aging population is expected to continue growing.
- Only 40% of workers are eligible for unpaid leave under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) but fewer than 50% of those workers eligible for FMLA can afford to take it.
- 21% of Pennsylvanians do not have the resources to survive up to three months of sustained loss of income.
- Currently, the majority of Pennsylvania workers – union and non-union, part-time and full-time – have no access to paid family leave.
- Women who are family caregivers are 2 ½ times more likely to fall into poverty.
- Family caregivers provide 80% of all home care without payment for their care.
- $303,880 is the average lost lifetime wages, pension, and social security benefits for caregivers over 50; female caregivers lose an additional $40,000. Estimated aggregate of caregivers’ lost wages and benefits is $3 TRILLION.
Employees who are caregivers have to balance their ability to be good workers at the same time they are struggling to take care of their own or a family member’s needs. Recognition of this societal challenge for workers is gradually increasing, and some businesses are starting to address their employees’ needs. While Thirteen percent of workers now have access to some form of paid family leave through their employer, nearly 100% of workers will need time off during their career to address their own serious health condition, or to care for a newborn or sick family member.
It is also important to remember that the definition of family is expanding and changing, therefore a broad definition is required for any changes to be fair and effective.
But … Don’t Get Discouraged! A partial solution is on the horizon, and you can be part of it!
Join the effort to establish a Family and Medical Leave Insurance Fund (FMLI) in Pa. California, Washington, New Jersey, and Rhode Island plus the District of Columbia already have paid family leave laws, and New York will be joining them in 2018.
An FMLI fund would provide all workers with the ability to earn a portion of their pay (50 – 67% of normal earnings) while they take time off work for up to a certain number of weeks to:
– Care for a family member with a serious health condition;
– Care for a newborn, newly-adopted child, or newly-placed foster child; or
– Address the worker’s own serious health condition including a pregnancy-related condition.
Since FMLI does not require employers to pay for their employees’ family and medical leave, the benefit goes with the employee if they change jobs. Existing FMLI programs are financed through payroll deductions. This especially benefits small businesses that often cannot afford to offer such a benefit to their employees on their own. National experts recommend that workers have the ability to take up to 12 weeks of partially paid leave in a 12-month period. Depending on income level, payroll deductions can be as little as 1% up to a maximum yearly deduction of less than $35/year.
If you are interested in bringing FMLI to Pa., contact Donna J. Byrne, Caregiving Committee Chair (215-290-3122) to help in gathering stories about the impact being a family caregiver had on your life or the lives of your friends. The first step in drafting law is gathering information about personal impact on Pa. families, so that the final law addresses as many concerns as possible. For more information, go to: www.zeroweeks.com
Donna Byrne is Secretary of the Bucks County Women’s Advocacy Coalition.