Georgia should adopt family leave system, advocates say

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By Rebecca Grapevine | Capitol Beat Press Service

According to a report published on Tuesday.

Implementing a system that would allow Georgians to take time off for childbearing or other caregiving duties would have many benefits, said members of the Georgia Coalition for Paid Leave, an alliance of more than 20 organizations.

“Georgia could create a paid family and medical leave insurance program that would be jointly funded by contributions from employers and employees rather than placing the burden on employers alone,” said Feroza Freeland, the bureau’s policy officer. South of A better balancea group that defends the rights of workers and member of the coalition.

Freeland highlighted a invoice introduced during this year’s legislative session which would have provided up to 12 weeks of paid leave to fulfill parental or caring responsibilities. Although the bill did not make it out of the House Industry and Labor Committee, Freeland said it provided a good model.

“The concept of this is similar to other social insurance programs like Social Security, for example,” Freeland said. “Each would contribute a modest amount to this fund, and then each could draw from it in the event of a family or medical emergency.”

Eleven other states have implemented similar systems funded by joint contributions from employees and employers, Freeland added.

A paid vacation system would also benefit Georgia’s business climate, coalition members said.

“Our research has shown that small business owners in Georgia support paid vacation programs because it makes good business sense to take care of their employees,” said Rachel Shanklin, the organization’s Georgia director. Majority of small businesses.

Shanklin said many small businesses can’t afford to offer benefits that compete with larger companies.

“Creating a comprehensive paid vacation program in Georgia will help small businesses become more competitive and also help with workforce retention,” she said.

Paid family leave also has specific benefits for child and maternal health, said Madison Scott, policy and research manager for the Healthy Mothers Healthy Babies Coalition of Georgia.

“Eighty-one percent of maternal deaths in Georgia occur after childbirth…after birth,” she said.

Scott said a period of rest after childbirth could help women cope with the physical and emotional stress of childbirth and help reduce rates of postpartum depression.

Paid leave policies also help ease pressures on other family caregivers, said Leah Chan, senior health policy analyst at the Georgian Institute of Budget and Policya left-wing think tank.

“Many Georgians belong to this sandwich generation, which is made up of adults who simultaneously care for children and elderly family members,” Chan said. “The multi-faceted physical, emotional and psychological strain of being a caregiver is really well documented in the literature.”

Chan said paid time off improves chronic disease outcomes and helps reduce overall healthcare costs.

Georgia already offers state employees, teachers and employees of the university system three weeks of paid leave per legislation the General Assembly spent last year.

The federal law on family medical leave also provides for 12 weeks of unpaid leave. However, almost 60% of Georgians either do not qualify for the leave or cannot afford to take it, the new report says.

There is broad bipartisan as well as public legislative support for expanding parental leave in Georgia, said Mica Whitfield, director of the 9to5 Georgia Chapter, which is part of the National Association of Working Women. She said she was optimistic about her chances in the next legislative session.

This story is available through a partnership with Capitol Beat News Service, a project of the Georgia Press Educational Foundation.

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