Paid Leave Could Mean Fewer WV Women Exiting Workforce
Friday, May 7, 2021
CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Nearly 60% of West Virginia workers lack access to any form of time off, either paid or unpaid.
Kelly Allen, executive director of the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy, said families are being forced to choose between caring for a child or family member or getting a paycheck.
And while legislation offering paid leave for both private and public workers has been proposed in recent years, she noted those bills haven't been taken up.
"And then for the last two years, we've seen Republicans in the State Legislature introduce more narrow bills that would provide parental leave just to public-sector employees. So, state employees," Allen observed.
Allen pointed to the American Families Plan as a major step forward. Under President Joe Biden's proposal, a national program would guarantee workers up to 12 weeks of paid parental, family and personal illness leave.
Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., has publicly expressed support for some aspects of the proposal. Opponents argue it would increase tax rates and hurt the U.S. economy.
By the end of last year, West Virginia's labor force had lost 113,000 workers, and nearly three times as many women were unemployed compared to one year earlier.
Allen predicted women will continue to lose work hours and wages if family-friendly policies aren't given greater urgency.
"We know that women have been deeply, deeply impacted by the pandemic," Allen emphasized. "Both working in the industries that were hit hardest by job losses, but also, most likely to have to deal with care-giving issues."
Allen added in many close-knit West Virginia communities, where generations of families have stayed, women are sacrificing their jobs, either for their own health needs or to care for loved ones. She said she believes Biden's proposal would provide relief.
"And instead, they have to kind of choose between their health and their job," Allen remarked. "But we think a policy like this would ensure that West Virginians don't have to make that hard choice."
Women make up nearly half of West Virginia's labor force, and more than one quarter of its business owners, according to the National Partnership for Women and Families.
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