Senator Kirsten Gillibrand is a huge proponent of paid leave, which is why she wants you to support the FAMILY Act. Check out the Change.org petition about it, and remember: #PaidLeavePays.
American women are working in greater numbers than ever before. Nearly 40 percent are now their family’s primary breadwinner, and most women are the primary caregiver for their kids (and, increasingly, their aging parents). So why don’t workplace policies reflect this new reality?
When it comes to balancing work life and family life, the United States stands out in an unfortunate way: We are the only advanced country in the world that doesn’t guarantee its workers some form of paid leave. Dividing busy schedules between your job(s) and your family can be challenging enough, but imagine how tough it gets when the stakes are high. When major life events happen—your mom or dad is sick, a baby is born, your spouse falls ill—many women feel a responsibility to be there for their loved ones. Yet without access to paid family leave, the only way to be there for them in those critical moments is to give up pay or quit a job.
No American should have to choose between taking care of their family and keeping their paycheck. With more women working now than ever before, it’s time to get rid of workplace policies that are left over from the Mad Men era. We need to guarantee all working Americans access to paid family and medical leave.
"The United States stands out in an unfortunate way: We are the only advanced country in the world that doesn’t guarantee its workers some form of paid leave."
Right now, without a national paid leave policy, the employees who pay the steepest price are women. (If you haven’t watched it already, John Oliver’s expert takedown of our country’s lack of paid leave is a must-see.) The impact is devastating. Women lose $324,000 when they leave the workforce to assume full-time caregiving responsibilities. They have a harder time returning to the salary and position they had when they left. They are more likely to need public assistance. And if they are low-wage workers, it becomes even tougher to move above minimum wage; we call this the “sticky floor.”
"With more women working now than ever before, it’s time to get rid of workplace policies that are left over from the Mad Men era."
We know that paid leave keeps women in the workforce and keeps women at their earning potential: Women eligible for paid leave are 40 percent more likely to return to work. And we know that businesses that have actually gone forward with paid-leave policies are glad they did. California set up a statewide paid leave program, and a whopping 91 percent of employers there said it had either a positive effect or, at worst, no noticeable effect on their bottom lines. It’s encouraging that states are taking a lead here (New Jersey and Rhode Island have successful programs, too), but access to a benefit this important shouldn’t depend on where in the country you live.
In the Senate, I’m working to pass a new bill called the FAMILY Act, which would guarantee paid family and medical leave to every American who works. It would be available to all women and men who need time off to care for a newborn child, a loved one who is sick, or even themselves if they are ill.
The FAMILY Act would ensure that if you need to take time off for yourself or your family, you can still pay your bills. It won’t matter if you work full-time or part-time. It won’t matter if you work for a huge corporation or a small business. For about the cost of a cup of coffee each week, you would have access to emergency leave funds when you need them. It’s an earned benefit that would travel with you wherever your career takes you.
The FAMILY Act would give all of us a little more time to care for our families (and, yes, ourselves) without sacrificing a paycheck or damaging a career. I’m urging my colleagues in the Senate to support it. If you care about this issue too, raise your voice and let the people around you—including your representatives in Washington—know how important it is to you. The only way we’ll pass this bill is if regular people speak out and demand it. Until then, we’ll still be the only advanced country on earth without any form of paid leave. So let’s get to work and change that!
Kirsten Gillibrand was sworn in as U.S. Senator in January 2009 to serve the remainder of Secretary Clinton’s term. She was elected to a full term in 2012 by a statewide record 72 percent of voters.
In only a short time, Gillibrand has made her presence felt in the Senate. From fighting to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” to providing health care and compensation for 9/11 first responders to reforming the military justice system and tackling the problem of sexual assaults on college campuses, she has created unique bipartisan coalitions. Kirsten is a leading voice for policies that will help families earn their full economic potential, including paid family leave and affordable child care—all while continuing her successful Off the Sidelines project that supports women candidates nationwide.
A New York Times bestselling author, she was named one of TIME Magazine’s “100 Most Influential People in the World” in 2014.