I ran a small non-profit organization in Roxbury for 15 years. We had just a few staff and a tight budget; salaries were not high. However, when one employee’s husband was diagnosed with cancer and went through challenging treatment, I gave her paid family leave. We could not afford to hire a replacement for that time and just covered her work with other employees. She made herself available for phone calls and questions when we needed her input.
A few years later when a younger employee became pregnant, we did the same, giving her three months of paid family leave and allowing her to ease back into the position part-time for a few weeks. Again, we could not afford to hire a replacement for three months. Although it was a burden on staff in the office, we were committed to supporting members of our team. It strengthened their dedication to the organization and brought long-term gains in terms of our capacity to keep talented, skilled staff.
What would have been great at the time is a state medical leave insurance fund like that proposed in Raise Up Massachusetts’ paid leave bill. By paying benefits to employees who were taking leave, it would have allowed us to save money and hire a temp for some office work while an employee was on leave. I also know that most employers would not offer paid leave without being required to contribute to such a fund.
After the birth of my two children and when my mother was in hospice, I was lucky to be in flexible workplaces, but in exchange for flexible days I worked nights and weekends at home, in the office, and in the community so that I could be with my newborns and my elderly mother a few days each week when other family members were not available to help with care.
Everyone should have the opportunity to take the time they need, and small businesses and non-profits should be able to join together in a paid leave insurance program to help us offer this critical benefit.