Urgent Need for Paid Medical Leave Program in Minnesota
By Sen. Sandy Pappas, District 65
Throughout the past year, all of us have faced daunting challenges that have pulled us away from our jobs and traditional routines. Whether you’re raising a newborn baby, caring for a sick child, looking after an elderly family member, or simply recovering due to an illness, all of us face difficult challenges that require us to take time off from work. Unfortunately, not all Minnesotans have the luxury to take time off without sacrificing their paychecks.
For many Minnesotans who do not have access to paid family and medical leave (PFML), an unforeseen family or medical emergency can force them to choose between risking financial instability or going to work while sick. It can also force young parents to choose between earning two incomes or having one parent stay at home to look after a newborn baby.
I understand this choice because I experienced this challenge firsthand. As a young working mother, paid family leave would have made an enormous difference for my family. Instead, my husband and I struggled financially while we sacrificed our work in order to raise our three children. To this day, thousands of young mothers in Minnesota and across the US are faced with the same situation. Paid family and medical leave is a simple and cost-effective strategy to make sure that those who must take time off for medical and family needs can do so without going bankrupt or risking their jobs. But don’t just take my word for it; take a look at the benefits offered by family and medical leave policies around the world.
In Israel, where my daughters live, mothers are allowed 15 weeks of maternity leave while earning 80% of their wages during the time that they spend raising their newborn baby. They are also allowed an additional 11 weeks of unpaid maternity leave should they choose to stay at home to spend more time with their child. This generous policy allows for mothers to spend more time with their babies during their first weeks of life, solidifying the bond between a mother and her child that is so important in the early stages of a child’s growth and development.
But one need not look abroad to find an example of the benefits brought to society by PFML. Right here in the US, ten states have already authorized PFML programs on a statewide basis. In the state of Washington, new parents are eligible to take up to 12 weeks of paid leave and mothers with newborn children are eligible to take up to 16 weeks of paid leave while still earning up to 90% of their weekly wages. Washington also provides a layer of flexibility in their PFML program by allowing new parents to take the 12-16 weeks of paid leave whenever they’d like over the course of a year.
As Minnesotans, we look after one another. Over the past year, our state has endured widespread trauma as a result of the pandemic, police violence, and subsequent civil unrest. But with each struggle, our communities have come together around our shared values to support one another. When times get tough, we understand that it is our duty to lend a helping hand to each other. Our state’s family and medical leave policy should reflect these same values that have shone so bright during the darkest days of the past year.