For those who advocate day in and day out for family friendly policies, this election brings hope. Not the more naïve and dreamy hope of 2008, but a hope borne out of the reality of the last four years and a growing recognition of the real demographic changes in our society. Hope that springs from the demonstrated desire of people in the United States to have government policies that help workers and families succeed in joining and staying in the middle class.
Hope also springs from a growing consensus that leaders must work together to find common sense solutions to working families’ struggles. New York Times columnist David Brooks nailed it the day after the election: “If you look at the polls, and I’ve been looking all day at Asian-Americans and Latinos, how they look at America, they believe ferociously in work. And they think some government programs help them work harder.” Brooks goes on to say that the central question for leaders to face is: “How do we help people work harder and make their lives better?” (Read more here.)
Family friendly policies fit the bill. Workers who earn paid sick days can work more productively and in healthier workplaces because they don’t have to work sick, and they can work with greater economic security because they don’t have to worry about losing income or risking their jobs when a child comes down with the flu. Workers who can take paid family leave after the birth of a child are more likely to return to work, to be more attached to their employers, to earn higher wages over time and to rely less on public assistance. And workers who have flexibility and control over their schedules need not worry that their jobs are on the line when family responsibilities arise. All of these common sense, pro-work policies fall into the bucket of government standards that would help people work harder and smarter.
For the public, family friendly policies unite rather than divide. Most Republicans, Independents and Democrats support common sense standards. Three-quarters of adults in the United States support a national paid sick days law so that workers don’t have to risk losing their jobs or wages because they or a child are sick, and a similar share believe that family and maternity leave are very important workplace standards. Voters who have had the opportunity to hear a fulsome debate about a paid sick days standard overwhelmingly believe that elected officials who support paid sick days policies are standing up for working people and understand their real-life challenges. On all of these questions, support holds firm across partisan divides.
As we move forward, let us answer the question “How do we help people work harder and make their lives better?” by looking to the obvious: paid sick days, paid leave and greater efforts to make workplaces more family friendly. Together, we will forge that path forward.