Georgia is failing its working moms and dads, according to a new report by the National Partnership for Women & Families. In its most recent edition of “Expecting Better,” the group assigned Georgia an ”F” after comparing policies in each state meant to protect and support working parents.
Georgia leaders tout the state’s recent high rankings as a place to do business, but they should be working harder to improve its grade as a place to live for working parents. These goals are not inconsistent. Improving the quality of life for working parents can provide a better environment for both business and employees, while lessening the burden to the state budget over the long term.
Georgia received the bottom grade for its failure to establish at least one of 13 family-friendly workplace policies for private sector workers or one of six for state employees. These policies include flexible use of sick leave, paid pregnancy-related disability leave and reasonable accommodation for pregnant workers. Thirty-three other states, including Georgia’s southern peers Texas, North Carolina and Tennessee are credited with at least one of the policies used in the scorecard.
Each year Georgia fails to support working moms and dads it forfeits an opportunity for both businesses and its economy. Providing for paid maternity leave should be a top priority in Georgia. It reduces employee turnover and the associated businesses costs. When parents can get paid leave they are more likely to stay employed and contribute to the state’s tax base. Parents who can get paid leave are also less likely to rely on public assistance.
The health of Georgia’s future workforce is at stake if the state fails to adopt policies more supportive of its families. The vast majority of Georgia’s children grow up in working families. More than 43 percent of those children grow up in low-income working families less likely to have access to paid sick time, paid vacation time or other supports.
Parents should also be able to use their paid sick time to care for their children. Restricting the benefit to cover an employee’s own illness means children are more likely to go to school sick and infect their classmates.
Caring for older parents is also a concern for families, with or without children. Georgia is home to the fourth fastest-growing population age 65 and over in the country. The working adult children of older parents should get the flexibility to use leave to care for their parents when they are sick and take them to a doctor.
Georgia should work to improve the failing grade it earned for its treatment of working parents. Our state cannot be the best place to do business if a vital part of the state’s workforce is missing the support and protections needed to succeed.