iOS app Android app More

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors
Debra L. Ness

GET UPDATES FROM Debra L. Ness
 

Getting Back on Track with Family Friendly Policies

Posted: 10/27/11 02:08 PM ET

As National Work and Family Month drew to a close this time last year, working families were hopeful that the upcoming election would mean that the economy would turn around, families would regain control of their finances and economic security, and the country would finally get back on track after a crippling recession.

Sadly, we ended up with a deadlocked Congress, and legislators at every level who are determined to undermine the social safety net and basic workplace rights that are the fabric of our nation -- and central to the economic security of families. The result has been workers continuing to struggle to hold onto their jobs, keep their homes, put food on the table and care for their families, including children and elderly relatives.

The past year has been hard for many working families, but it has also provided some promising and hopeful victories. Some family friendly policies, like paid sick days, have weathered the storm and will soon be available to hundreds of thousands more working people, helping them meet their families' health needs while protecting their economic security.

Connecticut made history in June by becoming the first state to pass a paid sick days law that gives workers the right to earn job-protected paid sick days to use to recover from illness or to care for a sick child or family member. Soon after, the Seattle City Council followed suit by passing a similar law that resulted from an unprecedented collaboration between workers, forward-thinking businesses and advocates. And in Philadelphia, the City Council has taken a significant step toward ensuring workers in the city have the basic right to earn paid sick time.

So this year we have seen great momentum and support for at least one common sense, modest policy that can make a tremendous difference for working families. Other family friendly policies are already on the books in other states. Just in time for National Work and Family month, the National Partnership has launched a comprehensive database that makes it easier to identify all of these existing work and family policies. Check it out at www.nationalpartnership.org/wfdb.

This new work and family database makes clear that lawmakers around the country recognize the need for and benefits of policies that ensure working people can be good workers and good family members. But if our country is ever going to demonstrate that it truly values families, and if we are serious about getting the country and economy back on track, then we need national work and family policy standards.

More than 40 percent of the private-sector workforce doesn't have a single paid sick day. Only 11 percent have paid family leave through their employers, and fewer than 40 percent have paid medical leave through employer-provided short-term disability insurance. The United States is the only developed country that does not guarantee workers paid leave.

It is time for the nation's policies to catch up with the rest of the world, and with the needs of 21st century families. To start, we need a national paid sick days standard and national paid family and medical leave.

This year, we have seen that progress is possible, even in difficult economic and political times. The momentum must continue so that families and the country can get back on track.