President Obama has unveiled new proposals aimed at strengthening the middle class through initiatives that would broaden access to sick days and paid leave, and provide the flexibility to succeed in their professional and personal lives.
The White House described the plans as steps to strengthening working families across America.
But to truly affect change, it’s on us, as business leaders, to stop dragging our feet. And we should start by asking ourselves: Why is this conversation happening only now, in 2015?
Why are we the only developed country in the world without paid maternity leave? Why do some work structures make a working mother feel she has no choice but to leave her young child in a park across the street during her shift at a fast food joint?
To truly support working families, we need to look at the whole picture. The way we work, and the way we live, have been evolving for decades. But the fundamental structures of work have yet to catch up.
In the majority of homes with children, all of the parents are working. Most mothers of young children are working. Working families are pulled in so many directions that they’re struggling to meet their responsibilities at work and at home.
While Washington works on affecting change on a national level, I’m challenging employers to lead the way. To go beyond the bare minimum of what’s necessary, and do right by all of your employees.
It’s not enough to offer paid sick time if employees are not empowered to use that time in whatever way is best for their family. It’s not enough to offer paid leave for new moms if parental leave for fathers, adoptive parents and non-primary caregivers is not addressed.
The President’s proposals would do many of these things.
Passage of the Healthy Families Act would allow working Americans to accrue up to seven days per year of paid sick time, which they could use for themselves or to care for a family member.
The proposal in the fiscal 2016 budget would propose $2.2 billion in mandatory funding to reimburse up to five states for three years of administrative costs associated with launching a paid family and medical leave program similar to those currently available in California, New Jersey and Rhode Island.
Plans to modernize federal parental leave polices not only includes paid leave for new moms, dads and adoptive parents, but would direct agencies to consider providing access to emergency backup care for children, seniors and adults with disabilities.
Washington should be applauded for following through on the steps announced during last June’s White House Summit on Working Families. The thing is, it’s not just the government’s responsibility to support our working families – it’s all of ours.
As a business leader, let us know how you’ve been able to support working families? Help the thousands of business leaders trying to do right by their employees by sharing some tips or the impact of the changes you’ve put in place.
Donna Levin is a co-founder and Vice President of Public Policy and CSR for Care.com. In this role, she is dedicated to discovering innovative solutions to the growing global care issue, helping shape local, federal and state matters as they pertain to families.