October is National Work and Family Month!
This month, we celebrate the progress that has been made on behalf of working families, and think deeply about ways to improve work culture for those who raise children, care for sick or elderly family members, or have other family responsibilities.
Last year, the RAC hosted an online forum called Double Booked, which invited all of us to engage in frank conversation about the dual sets of responsibilities working families have. In the forum’s inaugural post, the RAC’s deputy director, Rachel Laser, explained the challenges of balancing work and family:
“Sometimes being the type of Mom I want to be compromises my professional self. Sometimes the demands of work make me a less ideal parent than I’d like to be.
While this balancing act will never be easy, it is important that local, state and federal governments do everything they possibly can to help working families support each other and thrive. These policies are often good for businesses as well and their employees. Businesses know that providing the means for employees to take care of their families allows employees to stay at jobs longer and put in the best work they can while on the job.
Governments and businesses across the country have begun to implement new policies that support working families. Many businesses are creating new policy that requires employees know their work schedules two weeks in advance. Too often, employees are told that they will be forced to work the night before their shift. For the employee, this means they must come into work on short notice, or risk getting fired. This demand is difficult for any worker to accommodate, and especially for those who have to provide for children.
Many businesses are also experimenting with new flexible working policies, including telecommuting or flexible work schedules. Some parents may be willing to come into work earlier so that they can leave earlier and take care of their children. Other workers may be more effective when they can work remotely and take some time in the middle of the day to take care of family members. It will certainly take creativity and effort for businesses to establish these policies, but as businesses who have implemented these policies understand, ensuring that employees can be both effective workers and effective parents is good for business. Good working family policies help employees stay at their companies longer, and this makes businesses profitable in the long run.
Finally, working families need to be able to take care of their children and other family members when they are sick. Currently, Congress is considering H.R. 932 /S. 497 The Healthy Families Act. This bill would provide to employees of companies that hire more than fifteen people the ability to earn up to seven days of paid sick leave every year. These days could be used to stay home during illnesses or to take care of a family member who has gotten sick. Currently, too many workers are forced to choose between their wages and taking care of a family, and for many this is not actually a choice as losing wages or a job could force the family into poverty.
As we celebrate the progress that has been made in our country to support working families, we must continue to strengthen policies that allow these families a fair place in the work. Urge your members of Congress to pass the Healthy Families Act to provide job-protected sick days for all workers.