Lack of employee paid go away is unnecessary

Former hosts of Good Morning America campaign for care support at the Health & Benefits Leadership Conference.

Admittedly, Joan Lunden was luckier than most in her career in more ways than one. The longtime journalist co-hosted Good Morning America for two decades and is now the author and host of the PBS television series Second Opinion with Joan Lunden. But maybe even happier, she says, she continued to receive support from her employer when it came to her role as a working mother and carer.

Joan Lunden

While Lunden was with Good Morning America, her contract with ABC included maternity leave. When she came back in 1980 after her first child, she was allowed to take her young daughter to work. “Such perks were absolutely unknown,” said Lunden on Tuesday at the opening speech of the Health and Benefits Leadership Conference from HRE, which took place practically until Thursday. Registration for the event is free.

“[My experience] I also had a profound impact on vacation policies for other companies across the country, but I was also inundated with mailboxes coming on the network, “she said. “These letters came from working women across the country who said they were really excited to see something change, but they said, ‘What about the rest of us? ‘They needed help too, but they had no leverage. They did not have access to a safety net. “

And now, decades later, many employees – especially women, who tend to take on more responsibility for caregiving – are still asking the same question. Although a number of states have adopted their own comprehensive paid vacation guidelines and more companies are offering their own versions, Lunden said, “The vast majority of families in the US still do not have access to paid vacation and medical leave.”

That is a big problem.

“The lack of access to paid vacation or the ability to work flexible hours or work from home – of course, the pandemic has changed all of that – but these are the factors that can force great, talented, hardworking employees to quit right away the workforce completely. And it doesn’t make sense. It doesn’t make sense for the employee or the employer. “

Fewer than half of American workers currently have access to employer-provided medical leave and less than 20% receive paid parental or care leave through their employer, she said.

“If a woman has to leave her job because of child-rearing or care, she can be pushed straight off the career ladder. Once that happens, it’s not easy to get back on the job and women often have to start all over again, ”Lunden said. Research has shown that this is particularly the case in the COVID age. Many surveys predict an exodus of women workers due to the increased responsibility for care caused by the pandemic. Overall, many employees found it difficult to home-school their children while keeping their jobs. Others struggled with elderly care while others still struggled to attend to their own medical issues, and many got COVID-19 themselves.

Related: Why Care Programs Fall Out During COVID

This is one of the reasons Lunden is not only campaigning for employers to develop their own comprehensive guidelines to help workers, but also campaigning for a Federal Paid Leave Act. Last year she testified at a House Ways and Means Committee hearing in support of the Family and Health Insurance Leave Act sponsored by Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) And Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (DN.Y.). Legislation would provide for a 12-week partial income for family leave. The financing would come from an income tax.

“We’re in the middle of a nursing crisis and it’s a problem that is only going to grow,” she said during her keynote address. “We have to support families and we need people who stay involved in the workforce.”

What’s so important in managing the crisis is that it affects every employee at some point, she said.

“We will all give or receive care at some point in our lives. We all get sick; We all need to take care of our children and parents, and our spouses may need us, and neither of us wants to choose whether to take care of ourselves and our families and pay the house or the utility bills, ”she said. “A few short weeks would give time to bond with a new baby or say goodbye to a loved one, so that you can take care of yourself with peace of mind during the most difficult times in life. In the end, it makes us stronger when we don’t have to choose between income and caring for a loved one. “

Conference sessions are available through June 11th. Click here to view the entire session.

Kathryn Mayer is HRE Services Editor and Chair of the Health & Benefits Leadership Conference. She has covered benefits for nearly a decade, and her stories have garnered multiple awards, including a Jesse H. Neal Award and awards from the American Society of Business Publication and National Federation of Press Women editors. She has a bachelor’s and master’s degree from the University of Denver. She can be reached at [email protected].

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