MEDIA RELEASE: Family and Medical Leave Insurance is a crucial investment for North Carolina’s families, economy

RALEIGH (May 12, 2012) – Current workplace policies are out of step with the caregiving responsibilities of many North Carolina workers, a new report finds. Introducing Family and Medical Leave Insurance, a policy that allows workers to meet both work and family responsibilities, would create cost-saving solutions for employers as well as saving valuable public resources.

As of 2010, seven out of 10 North Carolina families with children have both parents in the labor force, according to a report released this morning by the North Carolina Justice Center. In addition, nearly 1.2 million North Carolinians are caregivers for an individual suffering from chronic illness, and most of these caregivers are also working at paid positions.

Despite the reality that most workers will have caregiving responsibilities at some point in their working years, only 11 percent of private-sector workers in the South Atlantic region have access to paid family leave. Some workers may be eligible for unpaid leave under the Family Medical Leave Act, yet eligibility rules keeps the FMLA out of reach for many workers, especially low-income workers. Moreover, many families simply can’t afford for a caregiver to take unpaid time off.

Several states have created family leave insurance programs in order to fill the need for job-protected paid leave, the report points out. Instituting such a system creates benefits for workers, businesses, and the economy of the state as a whole.

Workers are more likely to stay at their jobs, resulting in smaller gaps of unemployment, which can lower lifetime employment and earnings. Stronger labor force attachment in turn means less turnover, which saves employers money. And in a time of budget constraints, paid leave policies have been shown to lower the likelihood of workers receiving food stamps and public assistance, saving valuable public resources.

Many of North Carolina’s families are still struggling three years after the official end of the Great Recession, the report said, and job retention strategies are vital during continued times of high unemployment and job scarcity.

“Paid family and medical leave enables workers to keep their jobs when life events arise,” said Sabine Schoenbach, policy analyst with the NC Justice Center’s Workers Rights Project and author of the report. “Family and medical leave insurance is a policy that helps promote economic security and a healthy workforce.”

The report can be found at this link.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Sabine Schoenbach, Policy Analyst, NC Justice Center, sabine@ncjustice.org, 919.856.2234; Jeff Shaw, Director of Communications, NC Justice Center, jeff@ncjustice.org, 503.551.3615 (cell).