We need to overhaul our leave policies

One hundred and seventy-seven.
That’s the number of countries in the world that have some laws on the books for paid maternity leave or family medical leave insurance. The United States is not among them.

For centuries, America has lagged in ensuring that people are able to spend time with their families when it’s most needed. The time is long past to fully address our family and medical leave crisis.
As a 30-year-old, I am finding myself in what is termed as “the sandwich generation” — raising children while also caring for aging or disabled parent(s). My mother was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis when I was 12, and it has fallen upon me to care for her as the diseased has progressed. I am also the mother of a 5-year-old boy.
Sadly, my story is not unique. According to the Pew Research Center, nearly half of adults in their 40s and 50s have a parent age 65 or older and are either raising a young child or financially supporting a grown child. And yet there’s little help for this predicament.
But there is a potential remedy both nationally and here in Wisconsin.
The Family and Medical Insurance Leave Act, now pending in Congress, could provide relief for a lot of Americans. It would enable workers to take up to 12 weeks paid leave off in the case of a medical emergency, and would be funded through a small payroll contribution.
A bill was recently introduced in the Wisconsin Legislature to pass a Family and Medical Insurance Leave Act of our own.
The Family and Medical Insurance Leave Act would help numerous Americans. But it’s a Democrat-backed bill in a Republican-dominated legislative body (as is the Wisconsin version). Our nation’s regressive policies on paid family leave will probably continue, leaving families stuck and our economy lagging.
Our country is not adequately meeting the needs of modern families. And a new law will yield a great return on investment, for both families and employers. The Family and Medical Insurance Leave Act will change the game for so many like myself who cannot afford to take time off from work.
We should commit ourselves to passing this act and making the United States number 178. 

Raina J. Johnson is a freelance writer in Milwaukee and a board member of 9to5 Wisconsin. She can be reached at pmproj@progressive.org.
Copyright Raina J. Johnson

Originally published at Progressive Media Project.

Republished here with permission from the author.

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