F for no effort: Michigan fails working families

Added July 7th, 2014 by Yannet Lathrop | Email This Entry Email This Entry
Yannet Lathrop

Workplace policies have been on the minds of many over the past two years, with minimum wage and right-to-work rising to the top of debate in Michigan.

Yet, two important labor issues have not received nearly as much thought, despite their relevance to a wide number of Michiganians: paid sick days, and family and medical leave.

A new report by the National Partnership for Women and Families, Expecting Better: A State-by-State Analysis of Laws that Help New Parents, could bring this issue the attention it requires. According to the report, Michigan is one of 17 states to score an F in family-friendly workplace laws for new parents, and it is the only Great Lakes state to receive this grade. Other states in the failing grade category include Alabama and Mississippi.

The National Partnership for Women and Families awarded each state points for state policies that support new parents in the private and public sector. Specifically, the group looked at the existence of state laws that exceed family and parental leave guarantees under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act; maternity leave to prepare for and recover from pregnancy and child birth; sick time flexibility to care for a new child or ill partner; workplace accommodations for pregnancy-related physical limitations; and workplace accommodations so new birth mothers who have returned to work can continue to provide breast milk to their new babies.

Michigan, along with other F-grade states, does not have any such enhanced protections for new parents, and was not awarded any points. In contrast, other Great Lakes states such as Illinois and Minnesota each received passing grades (B and B-minus, respectively). California received the highest grade, A-minus, among all states in the report, while Connecticut, Hawaii, New Jersey and the District of Columbia each earned a B-plus.

As in the rest of the country, most Michigan families (98%) have at least one parent in the labor force. In fact, according to 2012 Census data, a majority (67%) of married couple families with minor children are dual-income families where both parents work to provide for the family.

Given the preponderance of working families with minor children in the state, laws that expand federal protections for working families in times of illness or the arrival of a new child are a policy imperative.

— Yannet Lathrop

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