MEDIA RELEASE: Caregivers struggle to balance work, family-care obligations

MEDIA RELEASE: Caregivers struggle to balance work, family-care obligations
Workplace laws need to be updated to include paid sick days and family leave insurance

RALEIGH (Sept. 7, 2011) – Focusing on job retention as well as job creation is critical in promoting economic recovery, a new study finds, with paid sick days and family leave insurance among the most promising policies to help support workers in today’s economy.

A majority of North Carolina’s 1.2 million caregivers struggle to balance work and family-care responsibilities, with the state’s workplace laws failing to keep pace with the growing demands on the profession, according to a study released by the NC Justice Center this morning as part of "The State of Working North Carolina" series. Nearly half of North Carolina’s private-sector employees lack access to paid sick time.

Yet policymakers could update workplace laws by enacting a minimum paid-sick-days standard or a variety of other policies, the study finds. Expanding access to paid family and medical leave could provide great relief to the caregivers’ demanding schedule, and allow them to fulfill their role at home without fear of losing their jobs.

“These policies are cost-effective ways to ease the extensive demands placed on working families,” said Louisa Warren, a policy advocate with the North Carolina Justice Center and author of the report. “North Carolina and the nation are woefully behind in valuing families at the workplace. There’s no better time to start doing a better job than now.”

North Carolina’s caregivers are comprised of individuals not only caring for their children, but also for adult family members, partners, and friends suffering from chronic illness. When a parent lacks flexibility to take paid time off, the study points out, a child’s health tends to suffer due to missed doctors appointments. In addition, the caregivers themselves are more likely to suffer from heart disease, high cholesterol, diabetes, and hypertension without adequate and flexible leave time to care for themselves.

The study outlines proven policies that would support workers struggling to maintain their jobs and continue caring for their loved ones. Enacting a minimum standard for paid sick days would guarantee that workers have a small number of paid sick days, the study states, and directly address the need for paid time off for short-term illnesses and routine medical appointments. Similarly, expanding the reach of the Family and Medical Leave Act so that it applies to workers in small businesses and all variations of families would provide 12 weeks of unpaid leave to eligible employees when the employee or a close family member has a medical condition.

Read more from the NC Justice Center's "State of Working North Carolina" series here.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Louisa Warren, Policy Advocate, North Carolina Justice Center, Louisa@ncjustice.org, 919.801.0465; Jeff Shaw, Director of Communications, NC Justice Center, jeff@ncjustice.org, 503.551.3615 (cell).