Family-Friendly Workplaces Are Crucial for Our Nation

Tralonne Shorter
March 17, 2019

On March 14, NETWORK Senior Government Relations Advocate Tralonne Shorter spoke at a press conference with Rep. Rosa DeLauro, Senator Patty Murray, Rep. Lauren Underwood, and Rep. Alma Adams about the introduction of the Healthy Families Act. View photos of the press conference on NETWORK’s Flickr account.

At NETWORK we are working every day for the dignity of the common good: urging elected officials, including the President, to join us on our mission to put people over profits. We not only advocate for social justice on Capitol Hill, but we also are a leading example of family-friendly workplace policies that reflect the current and future nature of families and women in the workforce.

Inspired by Catholic Social Justice, we believe that workplace and labor policies must respect the dignity of every human being, and recognize the needs of every human being to be in community with one another. In our advocacy for family-friendly workplace policies, we have focused on guaranteeing that all workers have access to paid family leave and sick leave, ending the gender and racial wage gap, and encouraging flexible scheduling to give employees and employers more tools and resources to create mutually beneficial schedules.

Current bills coming up in Congress include issues that support national paid family and medical leave insurance programs (Family and Medical Insurance Leave [FAMILY] Act), as well as setting a consistent standard for earning sick days (Healthy Families Act). It is our hope that the successful passage of these bills will enable more workers to access necessary time off that would allow them to care for themselves and their families.

The patchwork of existing workplace policies is not a sufficient safety net for workers and their loved ones. Just 17% of workers in the U.S. have access to paid family leave, and only 40% of workers can take paid personal medical leave.[1] The private sector is making strides in offering family-friendly workplaces, but those protections are not enough on their own and often leave out the lowest-paid workers. The United States is the only industrialized nation that does not provide universal paid leave benefits, making time off inaccessible to lower-wage workers. While 92% of the highest wage earners has access to paid sick leave, only 31% of the lowest earning workers can take paid sick time.[2]

The Healthy Families Act and the FAMILY Act would serve as two major solutions to promoting family-friendly workplaces, and upholding workers’ inherent dignity in allowing paid leave. As people of faith, we value an economy that puts people, not profit, at the center. We know that when the people at the economic margins of our society do better, we all do better.

The Healthy Families Act would set a consistent standard for accruing sick days: workers would earn a minimum of one hour of paid sick time for every 30 hours worked, up to 56 hours (seven days) per year. Additionally, the act would enable workers in businesses with fifteen or more employees to earn up to seven job-protected, paid sick days each year. These sick days would allow people to recover from illnesses, access preventive care, provide care to a sick family member, or attend school meetings related to a child’s health condition or disability.

The FAMILY Act would provide workers with up to partial income to take time for their own serious health conditions, pregnancy and childbirth recovery, care of a family member, birth or adoption, or military caregiving needs. The act covers all workers—part-time, lower-wage, and self-employed workers are all eligible. All companies are covered, no matter their size; the paid leave would be funded by small employer and employee contributions that amount to 2 cents for every $10 in wages.

The Healthy Families and FAMILY Acts not only contain provisions that would allow workers to earn paid sick days and family leave to care for themselves or an immediate family member, they also include important protections for victims of domestic violence, stalking, or sexual assault. No one should have to worry about losing their job while recovering from the trauma of intimate partner violence or harassment. These laws ensure every worker has access to the time they need to care for themselves and their loved ones.

We know paid sick days work because we’ve seen them implemented in 10 states and 20 cities around the country. Providing family-friendly workplace protections is necessary to build an economy that puts people, not profit at the center. Catholic Social Justice teaches that workplace and labor policies must respect the dignity of every human being, and recognize the needs of every human being to be in community with one another. The right to work must operate in concert with human needs of community – and our government should institute laws to ensure family-friendly workplaces.

Now is the time for Congress to pass the FAMILY Act and the Healthy Families Act, so that every employer can provide a pro-family friendly workplace that reflects the current and future nature of families and women in the workforce.