About 18 percent of adults in the U.S. have caregiving responsibilities. Yet caregiving work is highly undervalued: too many caregivers lack the support they need to care for an aging parent, or a loved one with a serious illness or disability. When workers must forego wages to attend to family caregiving responsibilities or otherwise struggle with juggling caregiving and work, it can result in lasting economic consequences.
So this National Family Caregivers Month, let’s demand we support family caregivers and treat their role with the value it deserves! Here are the policies we’re fighting for on the local, state, and federal levels, to benefit and protect caregivers:
- Paid family and medical leave. Paid family and medical leave is not just for new parents: it can be used by workers to care for a seriously ill or injured loved one as well. Eight states and D.C. have enacted laws giving workers the right to paid family and medical leave benefits. The federal FAMILY Act, which was reintroduced in Congress this year, would extend this right at the national level.
- Paid sick time. Paid sick time gives workers the right to take days off to care for a sick loved one (as well as to address their own health needs). 11 states and 34 jurisdictions total have passed paid sick time ordinances, and the Healthy Families Act would allow workers across the country to earn and use seven paid sick days.
- Fair and flexible scheduling. As a caregiver, one’s responsibilities aren’t always predictable, and a flexible schedule can make a world of difference. The Schedules That Work Act—reintroduced in Congress this week, would give workers the right to request scheduling changes due to caregiving responsibilities, and an employer must accommodate these requests absent a bona fide business reason for not doing so.
- Anti-discrimination protections for caregivers. Caregivers too often face bias and stigma in the workplace. A handful of states and dozens of localities, including New York City, explicitly protect against discrimination on the basis of family caregiver status. This should be the standard everywhere!
Not do these policies benefit caregivers and their families—they help spur a cultural shift, sending the message that caregiving is important and valuable to our society.
So for all the workers juggling family caregiving responsibilities with job responsibilities, we see you and we’re fighting for you! You can always call our free, confidential legal helpline with questions about your workplace rights at 1-833-NEED-ABB.