Giving Compass' Take:

•  Sarah Jane Glynn argues that the Family and Medical Leave Act does not give enough attention to family caregiving as a form of paid medical leave. 

• How can we work to grow awareness around this issue? And how can we work to expand these policies to be more inclusive of family caregivers?

• In addition to family caregiving needing more attention in the Family and Medical Leave Act, caregivers themselves also face financial challenges.  

Currently, the only national law guaranteeing workers the right to leave is the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) of 1993. But roughly 40% of all workers are excluded from the FMLA, either because they work for small employers or because they have not worked enough hours or been on the job for long enough.

Paid family and medical leave is a policy that has the potential to impact every worker and their families, and the potential need for access to leave cuts across all demographics and groups.

Mainstream media framing of the issue has tended to present paid leave as a white, middle-class women’s issue. Conservative proposals often limit the program to new parents, excluding family caregiving and personal medical leaves. And even more inclusive approaches have a tendency to emphasize the parental leave components of paid family and medical leave, with far less attention paid to the other conditions already covered under the FMLA.

Part of this is a reflection of the research field, as there is far more academic and non-profit research on parental — and specifically maternity — leave than family caregiving or medical leave. A significant reason for this imbalance is the fact that data on women who have recently given birth is far more available and accessible than data on workers with family caregiving responsibilities or personal medical issues.

The need for family caregiving is only likely to continue to increase over time. The majority of people with disabilities in the United States are adults and the likelihood of being disabled increases with age.  Paid parental leave is vitally important, and deserves all the attention it receives. But caring for other family members is also a critical issue facing working families, and need will only increase over time. Other forms of family caregiving — and not just baby bonding — must be included in the paid leave conversation.

Read the full article why family caregiving matters by Sarah Jane Glynn at AEI.