On Friday I visited Providence, Rhode Island, and met with workers, employers, community leaders, Sen. Jack Reed, Rep. David Cicilline as well as members of the Rhode Island congressional delegation who know that paid leave is good for workers and for business. Providence was my second stop on the “Lead on Leave” tour. White House Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett and I embarked on the tour earlier this month to shine a light on the issue of paid leave.
Millions of workers across America don’t have access to paid leave. That means that every day across the country, workers are forced to choose between the job they need and the family they love. A great nation should give people the tools to succeed at work and meet their obligations at home, but we remain the world’s only industrialized nation that does not provide paid leave.
The good news is that across the country, state and local governments aren’t waiting for Congress to take action. They’re passing laws that are helping working families. Rhode Island is one of three states that have enacted paid leave laws, because they understand that this is not a red issue or a blue issue, this is a working families issue.
Rhode Island, leading on leave
In July 2013, Rhode Island became the third state in the country to pass a law that guarantees workers paid leave. The Temporary Caregiver Insurance, or TCI, program provides up to four weeks of wage replacement benefits to workers who take time off from work to bond with a new child or to care for a seriously ill child, spouse or family member.
Last fall, the Labor Department awarded a grant to Rhode Island to study the program and to see how this system could be replicated on a larger scale.
Rhode Island State Senator Gayle Goldin was at the roundtable today and shared why it is important for workers to have access to paid leave:
“If you lose your job or have to go without pay in order to get that time off, you could be putting your whole family at risk. That may mean your family doesn’t have groceries because you took 4 or 5 days unpaid. [Paid leave] is a way to help families make sure they keep money in their pockets, even if they have to deal with a sick loved one or bond with a newborn.”
Paid Leave is Pro-Worker
All across the country, I’ve met too many people who are forced to go to work when they or their kids are ill, or forgo critical bonding time with a new baby so they don’t fall behind on their bills. With TCI, workers don’t have to make that agonizing choice.
In Rhode Island, I met Anne Quirk, a speech language therapist from Providence, who wrote to me about how paid leave affected her family. Anne’s baby came two months early, and then spent a month in the NICU while she was on bed rest.
Paid Leave is Pro-Business
While the TCI program is certainly helping more working families succeed, it’s also good for businesses. Companies like CVS, headquartered in Rhode Island, recognizes its employees’ lives are defined by more than just the hours they work. David Casey, vice president of workforce strategies and chief diversity officer at CVS Health, told me that having the ability to take paid leave is in direct alignment to CVS’s purpose of helping people on their path to better health. I also heard from Dan Gold, owner of Gold International Machinery/LNA Laser Technology, a family business based in Rhode Island. Dan told me that paid leave is an important part of his company’s success.
“We’ve built our business by trying to treat employees well,” Dan shared with the group. “Providing paid leave is not only the right thing to do, it’s good for business, enabling us to recruit and retain great staff.”
What I’ve seen in Rhode Island is true for the rest of the country; paid leave is good for workers and good for business. It’s time for us to lead on leave. For more updates from the tour, visit dol.gov/PaidLeave.