It’s National Boss Day, a commonly observed but somewhat controversial day when many people show their bosses and managers appreciation. To those of us who advocate for workplace policies that better meet the needs of today’s working families, it’s both a day to celebrate leading employers and supportive managers who recognize the importance of family friendly policies, and a time to call for private sector and public policy changes that would end the days when having basic workplace supports depends on winning the “boss lottery.”
The truth is that, unless you live in a select number of states or cities that have family friendly laws, access to supportive workplace policies like paid sick days and paid family and medical leave in this country depends entirely on your employer. If you’re lucky enough to be among the 61 percent of private sector workers who can earn paid sick days, the 13 percent of workers who have access to paid family leave through an employer, or the fewer than 40 percent of workers who have paid personal medical leave through an employer-provided temporary disability insurance program, then you’ve won the boss lottery.
If you are among these lucky few, you do not have to choose between your job and your health or your family when illness or injury strikes or new children arrive. You can stay home from work when you get the flu or when your child has strep throat. You can take time away from work to have or bond with a new baby. You can be there when a parent needs surgery or help getting to a doctor’s appointment. And, importantly, you can do all of this without risking your own or your family’s economic security.
But millions of U.S. workers and families are still waiting for that winning ticket. Some leading employers – like Facebook, Microsoft, Adobe, Johnson & Johnson, Hilton Worldwide and many others – have established or strengthened their paid sick days and paid family and medical leave policies. Some have even called on other employers to do the same and support public paid leave policies. We salute these companies for helping pave the way toward a national policy by raising standards, creating supportive workplace cultures and emphasizing that workers are a company’s greatest assets.
Some states and cities are also taking action. Four states and 21 other jurisdictions have, or will soon have, paid sick days laws in place. Three states have paid family leave programs, and those states and two others have temporary disability insurance programs that provide some pay for personal medical leave. Even with that progress, approximately 86 million private sector workers are left out. That’s why national policies are badly needed. Access to paid sick days and paid family and medical leave should not depend on where a person lives or works.
The Healthy Families Act would establish a national paid sick days standard and the Family And Medical Insurance Leave (FAMILY) Act would create a national paid family and medical leave program. Both proposals are currently before Congress and both are based on successful state and local laws. This National Boss Day, tell members of Congress that, for millions of Americans, having a family friendly workplace is like winning the lottery – and too many of us will never be so lucky. It’s past time to change that by passing the Healthy Families Act and the FAMILY Act. Then we will all be winners who are better able to hold jobs and care for our families.