As a small business owner and a mom, I know what it’s like to need to step away from work to care for loved ones. My husband and I have owned and operated the Night Kitchen Bakery and Cafe in Chestnut Hill for more than 20 years.
As a small business owner and a mom, I know what it’s like to need to step away from work to care for loved ones. My husband and I have owned and operated the Night Kitchen Bakery and Cafe in Chestnut Hill for more than 20 years. I can attest to the challenges of caring for both my 13-year-old daughter and helping my aging mother while working full time. And I know my employees face those challenges too.
My family believes that everyone should be able to care for a sick family member, recover from illness, welcome a new child, or meet a child’s needs during school or child care closures without risking their paycheck and financial security. But our business simply cannot offer paid family and medical leave on our own, as much as we would like to. That’s why I strongly support a comprehensive, robust federal paid family and medical policy that covers all workers.
The United States is one of only two countries that guarantees zero weeks of paid leave, and that puts both businesses and workers in an impossible position. A few years ago, one of our employees gave birth, and her baby was born with a heart condition. Her newborn was in the hospital for about six months and she needed time off throughout that time period. We rallied around her and tried to support her however we could, but in the end, we were only able to offer her a few weeks of sick pay.
It was a heartbreaking, horrible situation. It confirmed for me just how urgent it is that our federal government step up and find a solution to support businesses like mine and moms like her, and ensure everyone can access the affordable and sustainable paid leave they need and deserve.
During the pandemic, the need for paid leave has become even greater. So many of us are coping with illness, school closures, the need to quarantine and more. Congress recognized that when it included an emergency paid leave program in the Families First Coronavirus Relief Act (FFCRA). This bill has been a critical component of COVID relief for small businesses like mine. It helped small businesses keep operating while also being able to pay employees to quarantine when they were exposed to COVID-19, and recover when they became sick or needed to care for their children when schools and child care programs closed. However helpful, the law was narrow in focus, left out millions of working people and caregiving needs, and many of its strongest provisions expired at the end of 2020.
We need Congress to act swiftly to pass an extension of emergency pandemic paid leave but most of all, we need a permanent, comprehensive paid family and medical leave policy. That would be a huge win for families and businesses alike. If I could offer paid family and medical leave to my employees through a payroll tax contribution or other subsidized program, it would help me recruit employees and compete with bigger businesses with more resources.
It would also help me retain employees. Too often, lack of paid leave forces workers to leave their jobs entirely. That’s a terrible, unjust situation for workers, and it puts more strain on businesses because of the costs associated with finding someone new and training them.
For far too long, lack of paid leave has forced workers and small businesses like mine to make impossible choices. President Biden expressed support for federal paid leave on the campaign trail, and now it’s time to make good on those promises. I hope the new administration and the new Congress will make it a top priority to finally pass the federal paid leave policy we all need and deserve.