Here’s How to Ensure California’s Paid Family Leave is Available to All Workers

By Sukhdip Purewal Boparai

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Baby S. joining Mama during morning emails. Photo credit: Sukhdip Purewal Boparai

Low-wage workers — disproportionately people of color and immigrants — are performing essential work like delivering packages and stocking grocery stores.

My dad is part of this category of essential workers. During his 12 hour long shifts, he is making sugar which is necessary for the production of medicine. Meanwhile I’m lucky to be sitting at home, comfortable in my pajamas, with a cup of coffee and laptop at hand.

  • Were able to work from home and have schedule flexibility
  • Had paid time off, health benefits, and retirement plans through their employer

We can ensure that everyone can access paid family leave

Choosing between economic stability and supporting a loved ones’ health and recovery is not a decision anyone should be making — during a public health emergency or on any given day. We need to, more than ever, advocate for permanent economic policies that are equitable for all workers all the time. Without significant improvements to our economic security policies, we could expect to see widening economic inequities and compromised health outcomes for vulnerable populations. Here are 4 recommendations to improve paid family leave for all workers:

1. Dedicate resources to outreach and education

Advocates point out that low-income and immigrant communities often don’t receive word of programs like PFL in communication approaches that are culturally accessible to them. In partnership with community organizations, the EDD can improve awareness through targeted education efforts in hard-to-reach communities.

2. Ensure job protection

Caregivers say they would be more likely to use PFL if it provided job protection. Workers, especially those who are low-income and from immigrant communities, are reluctant to use PFL without being sure they can return to work without retaliation from their employer.

3. Ensure 100% wage replacement for low-wage workers

Advocates share that 60% or 70% of minimum wage provides little incentive for low-wage workers to use PFL. Workers who make a minimum or low wages would benefit from full wage replacement.

4. Streamline the application process

Another facet to PFL is the challenging application process, especially when attempting to speak to an EDD staff person over the phone. Government programs that are resource-intensive are often especially taxing for vulnerable populations. The EDD can improve the user experience, especially now with an expected rise in applications.

Nationally, we are behind in establishing economic securities for working people in the US.

The United States doesn’t have a national paid family leave policy or guaranteed paid sick days and many states don’t even have the paid leave policies that we have here in California.

But the Families First Coronavirus Response Act doesn’t go far enough — it excludes millions of workers, and it sunsets at the end of the year.

There are multiple policies being proposed now, including the PAID Leave Act, to fill these gaps and to make paid leave guaranteed for ALL workers permanently.

The inequities in our access to time off are much more visible and expansive during this global pandemic, giving us an opportunity to rethink our economic security systems, how we think about caregiving, and how we can do better for all workers.

Read our response to the crisis, Equity is the Remedy: Now and Beyond COVID19 to learn more.

What actions can you take?

Your organization can sign on to this letter to support the PAID Leave Act, introduced by Senators Murray and Gillibrand and Congresswoman DeLauro.

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