This Mother’s Day, let’s give moms the gift of job-security for the time they take away from work to bond with their new babies. Just last month, Governor Brown signed into law a bill that would boost Paid Family Leave benefits for parents who take baby bonding leave, but nearly half of all California workers could still be fired for taking the leave and accessing those benefits. Under current law, job-protection for baby bonding leave is only available to parents who work for large companies with 50 or more employees, leaving out over forty percent of the workforce in California.
A legislative proposal currently underway in California, Senate Bill 1166, by Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson, would help ensure more mothers can go back to their jobs after taking up to 12 weeks of baby bonding leave, by extending job-protection to parents who work for smaller companies. The reality is, almost half of the workforce is now women and mothers and fathers are sharing in financial and childcare responsibilities. Without job-protection for new parents, mothers are usually the ones who are forced out of the job market when they would otherwise choose to return after an extended period of leave.
Many other states have already expanded their family leave laws to provide more parents with job-protection when out on leave. Most recently, New York signed a bill that provided paid family leave benefits with job protection for nearly all workers in the state, regardless of the size of their employer. In Washington DC, all employees have 16 weeks of job-protected leave. In Maine, workers at companies with 15 or more employees have 10 weeks of job-protected leave; Massachusetts provides 8 weeks of job-protected leave for workers at companies with 6 or more employees; Minnesota offers 6 weeks of job-protected leave for workers at companies with 21 or employees; and Oregon provides 12 weeks of job-protected leave for workers at companies with 25 or more employees.
Opponents of SB 1166 argue that the proposed measure would “kill jobs” and “unduly burdens and increases costs of small employers.” These fear-based, sky-will-fall arguments have no basis. In 2004, the National Federation of Independent Business conducted a poll of small businesses that contradicts the “undue burden” narrative. The average number of requests for leave is only one per year. Two-thirds of the small businesses did not receive a request for leave at all in the prior three years. When asked about the principal problem caused by the employee’s absence, the most frequent response was “no real problems.” A 2012 national survey of employers conducted by the Department of Labor also found that small employers were less likely to report problems with family leave than were large employers and that fewer than 10 percent of employers reported problems with productivity, absenteeism, turnover, profitability, career advancement, or morale because of family leave.
At last month’s bill signing ceremony raising California’s minimum wage, President pro Tem Kevin de León said, “When it comes to taking care of working families, mark my words, California leads the nation…the rest of the country looks toward California for leadership on this issue.” It’s time for California to make good on its promise to working families – to provide not just higher paid leave benefits, but an assurance that their job will be there when they need it the most.
In addition to signing your Mother’s Day cards today, please sign this petition in support of SB 1166, because no mother in this state should have to choose between caring for a child and keeping a job.