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Will Indiana Put Paid Family Leave on the Front Burner?

Many women in Indiana go back to work early because they can't afford to stay home after a baby is born. (Sierra Neely)
Many women in Indiana go back to work early because they can't afford to stay home after a baby is born. (Sierra Neely)
December 14, 2016

INDIANAPOLIS – One in three Hoosiers struggles to afford the basic necessities, and those also are the workers least likely to have access to paid family and medical leave.

A new report by the Indiana Institute for Working Families looks at what other states and countries are doing for working families. The report said in states where there are strong family-leave policies, employers report less job turnover, especially with female employees.

The Institute's policy analyst, Erin Macey, said Indiana welcomes about 85,000 new babies into the world every year, yet many parents don't have paid time off, so they either lose pay or go back to work early.

"We're seeing estimates that as many as one in four women are going back to work two weeks after giving birth," she said. "And we know that a car accident or a cancer diagnosis can just sink a family financially, in the absence of access to these kinds of support."

The report's recommendations include setting up job protections for those who take leave, replacing lost wages, and creating more flexible time-off policies. The Indiana Commission for Women got a federal grant to come up with proposals for paid family leave in the state. That will likely result in some legislation, but Macey said it probably won't be until 2018.

Macey added lack of paid leave also affects people who have sick or elderly parents. She said some are losing, or leaving, their jobs so they can take care of them.

"And that's a problem that's only going to get worse as our communities continue to age and we sort of cap out of the resources we have to support them," she added.

The Council for Disability Awareness suggests one in four of today's 20-year-olds will experience a disabling event, such as a back injury, cancer, or heart disease, before they retire. It also said those who drop out of the workforce due to illness or to care for family lose an average of $300,000 in wages and benefits over their lifetime.

Veronica Carter, Public News Service - IN