Ariel Skelley | DigitalVision | Getty Images
A lack of paid vacations and access to quality childcare has long been a problem for working parents in the US, proponents argue.
The coronavirus pandemic has only exacerbated the problem as some parents – mostly women – leave their jobs to look after their children. A September report by Lean In and McKinsey & Company found that one in four women is considering leaving the workforce or downsizing their careers.
“The pandemic has really shown people how much caring really goes to make the economy work,” said Lelaine Bigelow, executive director of foreign affairs at the National Partnership for Women and Families.
The Biden government recently responded with a proposal for 12 weeks of paid family and sick leave that workers would receive within 10 years. They could get up to $ 4,000 a month with at least two-thirds of their average weekly wage replaced. The program, which is part of President Joe Biden’s $ 1.8 trillion spending and tax credit plan, would be paid for in wage taxes.
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Biden’s plan would also spend $ 225 billion on childcare for children under 5 over a decade. It ensures families only pay a fraction of their total income for the services, with the average family saving $ 14,800 a year on childcare.
Some companies already offer support to their employees. According to a 2019 survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation, a quarter of employers offer paid parental leave to at least some employees for the birth or placement of a child.
In terms of childcare, only 4% of employers offered subsidized daycare or programs, according to the Society of Human Resource Management’s 2019 survey of employee benefits
Another 4% provided unsubsidized centers either on-site or nearby affiliated with the company, and 11% offered referral service providers.
However, it is something that parents want. According to a recent survey by childcare provider Bright Horizons, 46% of working parents would like their employer to provide some form of childcare or emergency childcare.
Amanda Fallon, a 38-year-old mother of 4 year old and 8 month old, is one of those who has a daycare facility on her employer’s campus in South San Francisco, California. While the tuition fees are not subsidized by the Genentech company, they are discounted based on family income.
This was particularly useful during the pandemic, as Genentech allowed employees to use the center on campus early, Fallon said. She could work and have her two children looked after nearby.
“Thanks to the support of my employer, I have been able to tackle these challenges much more easily,” said Fallon. “That’s pretty amazing.”
The pandemic has really shown people how much caring is really part of what makes the economy work.
General Manager for Foreign Affairs at the National Partnership for Women and Families
While employers may provide relief to their workers, national policies are required for all Americans, proponents say.
Under Biden’s plan, low-income families would pay all of their childcare costs. Those earning 1.5 times their median national income wouldn’t spend more than 7% of their annual salary.
Small companies also argue that doing so would help them compete for workers against larger companies.
“We have to be very careful about reaching out to the private sector to resolve such a large program as it has a direct impact on the small business economy,” said Sarah Cozier, spokeswoman for the Main Street Alliance.
“In order to support a thriving small business owner and his or her employees, it is important that the government support them [child-care] Subsidies so that we have a level playing field. “
Kate Davenport, Co-President of Eureka Recycling.
Source: Kate Davenport
For Kate Davenport, Co-President of Eureka Recycling in Minneapolis, a national paid vacation policy would finally allow her to offer it to her 120 employees. Right now it’s financially unreachable.
“As a small company we compete. We don’t have the same profit margins as some of the big companies,” said Davenport, who already pays employees a living wage, gives paid time off and pays 100% health insurance.
It also had workers who refused promotions on the grounds of childcare.
“It would create a benefit cliff,” she explained. “If they get the promotion and earn $ 5 to $ 10 an hour more, they won’t be eligible for childcare allowances and yet they won’t have enough money to pay for the childcare.”
In the end, it’s about getting parents, especially mothers, back to work.
“If we are really concerned about a fair economy and our economy growing, we need to take action that supports our women workers,” said Crozier.
“We also have to acknowledge that these things are not only affecting women.”
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