The 2016 Presidential elections upon us with the topic of paid leave, or the lack thereof in the United States, a prevalent topic among candidates. And with Hillary Clinton bringing her feminine prowess to the forefront of this year’s run, it’s impossible to ignore.
I decided to get a job working the typical 9 to 5 while I was engaged. My fiance was living in Houston at the time and I knew in order for us to secure an apartment in New York, one of us would have to be bringing in a steady income to get approved. We were in a state of limbo but we knew we wanted to start a family soon. I’m no spring chicken so with that decision came worry. Though I Knew from day one I did not belong in the position I accepted, I did what I had to do. As a part of my welcome package, they gave me all the information I needed to make an informed decision about insurance, which plan I would prefer and how much they would contribute. I decided to read over all of this information at happy hour one day to better understand what was being offered.
Nearly three-fourths of working women are either the breadwinners, or equal co-contributors to their families. Not only are women bringing home the bacon, they have to cook it, make sure the babies are eating it, and insuring that it does not have too much sodium for their parents to consume it as well. Overall, women have too much shit to do to not have access to paid leave to care for family.
As I was scanning the healthcare and paid leave pamphlet, I noticed the job offered leave pursuant to FMLA, but offered no paid maternity leave. I immediately thought, “Why in the hell am I here ?”
Surprisingly, and maybe because this was the first time in my life where I even started to think about any form of paid leave, I had no idea not all salaried jobs came with it, maternity leave specifically. I started speaking with some of my friends with young children, just to ask about their experiences dealing with subsidizing their income while they, or their significant other, were out on leave. It, honestly, was not until after having been in the workforce for well over 12 years that I started to pay attention to just how messed up this system is.
As noted in a recent article, businesses are not opposed to paid leave itself; 65 percent of U.S. civilian workers have paid sick leave, and 74 percent have paid vacation, according to the Labor Department. (The numbers are, however, slimmer for paid family leave — only 12 percent of private sector workers have access to that.) But those in the business community say they’re opposed to the government telling businesses how to institute those policies. Paid leave is expensive, they argue, and businesses should all be able to figure it out on their own.”
Though American workers are covered for up to 12 weeks for “leave” under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), how does this benefit your family if you are sick, caring for an elderly loved one, or nursing and wondering how the hell you are going to pay your monthly bills? By far, the U.S. is backwards in how we view work/life balance and just how important family is.
I made a decision a LONG time ago to never put myself in a position where I had to choose between my family or my work. Women struggle with this choice daily. They want to be able to take care of themselves and their families, but are living damn near paycheck to paycheck, that the option to take some time off to even heal from childbirth or care for an ill child is not an option. It is unfortunate that we have allowed ourselves to become so consumed with working for other people, pushing their agendas, building their businesses, and can’t even get paid time off to take care of those who really care about us.
We should never assume that employers offer paid time off, because, frankly, there is no requirement for them to. If you have been on your job for a while, and your employer sees you as an asset to the company, you may want to start negotiating for paid leave long before you decide to start a family, or before anticipating any issues with an elderly loved one. Hopefully, in the near future, this won’t even be a point of discussion.