By Tessa Abeyta and Janet Williams
As New Mexicans, we value hard work and family. But for many of us, these values can be in conflict when a new baby arrives, a loved one falls ill, or we ourselves become ill. That's because, unlike most other developed countries, the United States does not guarantee paid family and medical leave. As a result, many New Mexicans are forced to choose between their job and the well-being of their family.
This is a problem that affects not just individuals, but our entire state. Without paid family and medical leave, parents are less likely to take time off to bond with a new child or care for a sick family member. This can lead to long-term health problems for both parents and children, as well as decreased productivity and higher healthcare costs.
Furthermore, paid family and medical leave is an essential tool for promoting gender equity in the workplace. Women are more likely to take time off for family caregiving than men, and without paid leave, they are more likely to experience career interruptions, reduced earning potential, and increasing potential for discrimination in the workplace. This is especially true for low-income women, who are disproportionately likely to work in jobs without paid leave.
Paid family and medical leave is also important for businesses in our state. Employers who offer paid leave see lower turnover rates, saving them money in the long run. Additionally, paid leave can help attract and retain talented employees, which is essential for the growth of our economy. Business owners can also benefit from PFML.
The Paid Family and Medical Leave Act (PFMLA), being introduced in the 2023 Legislature, would create a statewide paid family and medical leave insurance program. Under this program, workers would have access to up to 12 weeks of paid leave per year to care for a new child, a seriously ill family member, or their own serious health condition.
We need to take action now to make paid family and medical leave a reality for all New Mexicans. It is time for our state to join 11 other states who have PFML, and the rest of the world, in recognizing that paid family and medical leave is a basic right, not a luxury.
Our state legislature needs to prioritize the creation of a paid family and medical leave program to make it more accessible to all employees, regardless of their employer size or Industry. This will make it possible for all New Mexicans to take the time they need to care for their loved ones without worrying about losing their income.
Paid family and medical leave is not a partisan issue; it is a human rights issue that affects us all. It's time for our leaders in New Mexico to step up and make it a reality for everyone. We need to come together as a state to support families, promote gender equity, and boost our economy.
Let's give all New Mexicans the peace of mind that comes with knowing that they can take care of their loved ones without sacrificing their livelihood.
Tessa Abeyta is the Co-Executive Director at the New Mexico Public Health Association. Janet Williams is the President of Santa Fe NOW.
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