October is National Work and Family Month, a time to reflect on the importance of promoting healthy work environments that allow workers to balance caregiving and quality time with family alongside their work obligations.
This year, as we at A Better Balance celebrate fifteen years of fighting to advance justice for workers caring for themselves and their loved ones, we are also faced with the new normal brought on by the pandemic, which has fundamentally changed many of our relationships to both work and care. The past year and a half has laid bare how policies that promote work-life balance are not just nice-to-haves, but a matter of public health, economic equity, and justice for marginalized groups who have overwhelmingly borne the brunt of the pandemic.
Policies like paid sick leave have saved countless lives by allowing workers to stay home and stop the spread of COVID-19, in addition to helping workers receive the COVID vaccine without sacrificing a paycheck. Pregnant workers, particularly women of color in low-wage, frontline positions, have faced added precarity due to the pandemic as they try to maintain a healthy pregnancy without being pushed from the workforce in the midst of an economic crisis.
Many working caregivers have experienced firsthand the importance of paid family and medical leave. “My daughter was born in April 2020, one month after New Mexico issued its shelter-in-place order in response to the coronavirus crisis. My one month of leave was nowhere near enough,” wrote ABB Community Advocate and working mother Kim Donoghue in a Medium post. “Despite the fact that I was working from home, caring for my infant in the early months of her life while continuing to perform my job was still the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do.”
This National Work and Family Month, we must continue to center the voices of workers like Kim who urgently need policy solutions to the flaws in our safety net that the pandemic has laid bare. We are seeing unprecedented progress towards finally passing paid leave for all workers, as well as promising momentum in Congress to pass laws guaranteeing protections for pregnant workers nationwide. We urge our lawmakers to prioritize the needs of working families this month and always, and will continue to fight tirelessly to ensure that all workers can be there for their families when it matters most.