Have you ever wished you could run yourself through a giant copier so you could accomplish everything on your to-do list? Between work and family, we’re pulled in so many directions, sometimes it seems the only way we can possibly meet all our responsibilities. When workplaces aren't family-friendly, this feeling is even worse.
With women now outpacing men in the labor force, families struggle to balance caregiving responsibilities with jobs. The result? N.C. workers often risk paychecks, and even jobs, when they need a sick day, welcome a new child, or care for an elderly parent. We simply can’t be two places at once. Without paid sick leave, flexible work, and paid family and medical leave, many families find they’re one illness away from economic ruin. Since we won’t have giant people copiers any time soon, what we really need are workplace policies that enable us to be good employees and good parents.
North Carolina is one of the first states to form a legislative study commission to examine how labor laws haven’t kept pace with changing workforce needs. They’re examining policies like:
Paid Family Leave: For major life events like a new baby or dealing with serious illness, the Family and Medical Leave Act provides limited support. People who work for small employers aren’t covered, so they have no right to even unpaid leave. Folks with large employers often can’t afford to take time off because it’s unpaid.
Paid Sick Days: For common illnesses, like the flu, that need a day off, there’s no law protecting jobs or pay. In North Carolina, you can be fired for staying home with the flu. While some businesses do provide paid sick days, nearly half of the state's workers, 1.6 million people, can’t earn a single paid sick day to care for themselves, their sick child or to go to the doctor.
Pay Equity: Despite now being 50 percent of the workforce, women still face significant pay inequities. Women without kids make about 90 cents per man’s dollar, women with kids about 73, and single moms about 60 cents per man’s dollar. Women of color experience additional wage hits. These lost earnings could be contributing meaningfully to families’ budgets.
These policies have real implications in the everyday lives of N.C. families and for public health and economic security. It’s an important step that the state legislature is examining these issues.
We hope they’ll follow-up by proposing family-friendly legislation this legislative session. When they do, we’ll need a powerful movement of parents to take action to make sure they’re passed into law. MomsRising.org is working to build a massive grassroots movement to do that in North Carolina. We invite you to join us.
Beth Messersmith is a member of the Triangle chapter of MomsRising. Find out more about the local chapter by clicking here.