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Could Paid Family Leave Be in the Cards for WA Parents?

A study says more than 80 percent of Washingtonians support a paid family leave program in the state.(PublicDomainPictures/Pixabay)
A study says more than 80 percent of Washingtonians support a paid family leave program in the state.(PublicDomainPictures/Pixabay)
December 2, 2016

OLYMPIA, Wash. - Access to paid family and medical leave should be a priority, according to a new survey.

The study, funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Labor, found support among registered voters across every demographic, with 82 percent saying they consider paid family leave "important" or "very important."

Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner, co-founder and chief executive of MomsRising, cited an economic advantage for businesses as well.

"Businesses are boosted in the studies that have been done in places that have passed this policy, like the state of California," she said, "and found that when businesses have paid family leave in place, it actually increases retention, productivity and lowers recruitment and retraining costs, which is no small matter."

Medical leave, which also was included in this survey, would allow employees to take time off for serious injuries. It also would allow them time off to care for sick or injured family members - including parents, grandparents, children and siblings.

Rowe-Finkbeiner said she hears from mothers across the state who have struggled without paid leave. In one case, a Wenatchee woman - working at a job that did not offer paid family leave - was told her employer would hold her job for a month after she had her baby. But there was no child care available for newborns until they're three months old in her area. She had no choice but to resign and move back into her parents' house.

"Financially, she's yet to recover, even though her child is now 4 1/2 years old," Rowe-Finkbeiner said. "Now, she has three part-time jobs, and she's still not able to get work for more than 20 hours a week, and none of them are in the field that she trained in."

Washington state lawmakers passed a paid family leave bill in 2007, but never approved a way to fund the policy. Rowe-Finkbeiner says supporters will push to fix that during the 2017 legislative session.

The report is online at governor.wa.gov.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - WA