By Mary Margaret Fouse-Bishop, Nurse Supervisor, Jefferson County Public Health
After having my first child, I remember feeling a lot of emotions: joy and amazement of bringing a human being into the world, fear of caring for a baby, anxiety about child care needs, guilt about going back to work, and thinking “HOW AM I GOING TO DO THIS?” I was lucky to have access to twelve weeks of unpaid leave, to be home with my baby. However, my spouse and I had to take a pay cut during my time at home and plan for child care costs when I returned to work. Looking back, I wonder if some of the stress and anxiety could have been avoided had there been more options to support our family.
Nothing is more important than family. Yet, for working parents, choosing between meeting their families’ basic needs and their health and well-being is a constant struggle. Families do their best to make it work, but does it have to be at the expense of their families’ health and well-being? No–and Paid Family Medical Leave is a policy that can help.
What is Paid Family and Medical Leave?
A paid family and medical leave policy allows employees to take paid time off for important life events, including the birth or adoption of a child, when a family member (such as a child, partner, or aging parent) needs care, or when the employee themselves is sick.
Why Paid Leave Matters
Research shows Paid Family and Medical Leave positively impacts the health and well-being of families. Paid Family and Medical Leave:
- Allows time to physically recover from having a baby
- Improves the mental health of moms
- Reduces infant deaths under the age of 1
- Improves breastfeeding.
Juggling a full-time job and parenting is what most families do every day. In the United States, 72% of moms work either full or part time jobs. Over half of two-parent families include both parents working full-time. Despite this shift in the workforce, the United States remains the only developed country in the world without a national paid family leave policy.
- 1 in 4 women return to work within two weeks of having a baby. Many parents have difficulty finding quality, affordable care, and often struggle to breastfeed. Returning to work early also seems to increase postpartum depression and anxiety.
- Not having paid leave policies left workers and the public unprepared for the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Only 1 in 5 Colorado workers has access to paid family and medical leave, and those who need it most are least likely to have it.
- Only 6% of low-wage workers have access to paid family leave and 50% of low-wage workers are women of color. This gap is particularly harmful for people of color and women, who are more likely to work essential jobs where they face higher risks of exposure to COVID-19.
Without paid family and medical leave, millions of Coloradans cannot take time to overcome a life-threatening illness, care for loved ones in an emergency or bond with their new child.
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