By Diana Philip, Executive Director of NARAL Pro-Choice Maryland
After five years of debate in our state legislature, our state has finally passed the Maryland Healthy Working Families Act. Our state is ready to show that we stand with working families and individuals by taking this step towards equal opportunity and growth for all.
Unfortunately, our governor is not.
At NARAL Pro-Choice Maryland, we believe that individuals should be able to choose if/when/how they form their families, and to parent in health, safety, and dignity. One of our members just called Governor Hogan’s office urging for the bill’s signature. The reply was that the governor still intends to veto this bill.
Right now, access to sick and safe leave is a privilege too few Maryland employees have. This must change. Earned leave should not be accessible only to some, but should become the norm for all.
Paid sick days are essential for families across Maryland, where workers risk economic setbacks and workplace insecurity when faced with illness, caregiving responsibilities, and pregnancy-related health necessities, to name a few. Too many parents do not have access to earned sick leave, which exacerbates and adds to the many difficulties families face in keeping their childcare placements, managing child-rearing schedules, and navigating pregnancy-or postpartum-related workplace discrimination.
Victims of crime need access to immediate safe leave in order to safeguard their health and safety, as well as their dependents. Having earned days set aside helps many with their plans to break free from the cycle of violence.
Victims of crime need access to immediate safe leave in order to safeguard their health and safety, as well as their dependents. Having earned days set aside helps many with their plans to break free from the cycle of violence. Victims of sexual assault, domestic violence, and/or stalking should not be placed in further crisis by having to choose between timely healthcare or intervention and loss in pay or job. Earned safe leave should be a right – not a privilege.
For workers who need reproductive healthcare, time is precious. Lack of earned sick leave can influence pregnancy-decision making. Fear of losing one’s pay or job contributes to delays or the inability to confirm a pregnancy, receive prenatal care, or terminate a pregnancy. Employees can face professional difficulties when needing time off to take care of their bodies, access preventative care, or address pressing sexual and reproductive health issues. Patients seeking prenatal care need one appointment per month until the 28th week, at which point medical providers insist on more frequency, particularly for patients carrying high-risk pregnancies. For those seeking reproductive technology, timely appointments must be kept to realize goals of family formation, especially among members of the LGBTQ community. Giving birth becomes a stressful life event for those missing pay necessary to cover basic needs such as housing and food. Time off to recover from a miscarriage should not result in financial jeopardy or job insecurity. The reproductive lives of women cost more time and money than of men. Earned sick leave contributes to gender equity.
Not only is the act beneficial for employees, but it also helps employers. States that have created a paid sick leave standard (Connecticut, California and Massachusetts) found unemployment decreased a year after the laws were implemented. Providing paid sick leave allows businesses to retain their most productive workers by giving them the essential benefit of time to care for themselves. Not only does having a healthy workforce pay off in employee productivity and retention, but it has the potential to improve employee-employer relations.
Marylanders should be given the time and opportunity to create and maintain healthy families, and ensuring they receive earned leave is an important step towards economic security and reproductive justice. We cannot achieve either if people are struggling to keep their jobs while forming and raising their families.
Governor Hogan has said that if this bill came to his desk it would be “dead on arrival.” He cannot continue to turn a blind eye to the hardships of Maryland’s working families.