Paid family leave: burden or boon?

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Lois A. Bowers
Lois A. Bowers

In early October, I wrote about the “Beyond Dollars” report that had just been released by insurance holding company Genworth Financial. The study, in part, detailed the negative job-related consequences faced by some family caregivers:

  • 77% reported missing some work during the past year.
  • 19% missed 10 or more hours of work per week (the average was 7 hours).
  • 12% had to change positions.
  • 11% lost their jobs.
  • 10% had to change careers.

In fact, as I wrote at the time, 51% of family caregivers surveyed believed that their caregiving responsibilities had negatively affected their ability to perform their jobs.

Now, new research, funded by The SCAN Foundation and carried out by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, finds that 72% of Americans aged 40 or more years believe if they take leave from their jobs to perform caregiving duties, they should be paid for it. Current federal law, as you know, requires employers to provide up to 12 weeks of leave for most workers to care for a newborn, adopted child or ill spouse, child or parent who is seriously ill, but it is not paid leave.

The AP-NORC study included 1,698 telephone interviews with a nationally representative sample of Americans aged 40 or more years.

Forty-three percent of the respondents said they have either past or current experience providing long-term care to a family member or close friend. Among those with experience as caregivers, 40% reported having to miss work to provide care.

The authors note that three states have active paid family leave laws and that 19 or more states are considering it. New York, the latest to approve paid family leave, will launch its program in 2018. It will be funded by a $1-a-week deduction from workers' paychecks.

California has a paid family leave program and will increase the weekly benefit in 2018 to 60% or 70% of a person's wages, depending on his or her earnings. Interestingly, however, the AP-NORC poll found that only about 56% of Californians know that the program exists.

Many employers, of course, may view paid leave as a burdensome business expense that adds to their recruitment and training costs to replace workers on leave — not to mention that they are paying employees who are not contributing directly and positively to the bottom line while on leave. Others may believe that meeting such needs, while an expense, is one way to help keep quality employees in an era where they can be difficult to find and retain.

I'd be interested in hearing from you, as someone in the senior living industry who routinely witnesses the stress under which the family members of residents often find themselves while trying to see that the financial and care needs of their loved ones are met. What do you want for them, and for your employees? Send me an email at lois.bowers@mcknights.com or leave a comment below.

Lois A. Bowers is senior editor of McKnight's Senior Living. Contact her at lois.bowers@mcknights.com. Follow her on Twitter @Lois_Bowers.

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