For families like mine, paid family and medical leave is not a luxury, it is an absolute necessity

I am the sole caretaker and provider for an elderly, disabled parent who lives with advanced multiple sclerosis and dementia and is wheelchair-bound. We are a one-income household, I am disabled, and our migratory status prevents us from accessing public programs. For families like mine, paid family and medical leave is not a luxury, it is an absolute necessity. However, the recent proposal for paid family and medical leave does little to ensure workers like me will have access. A private program is inherently flawed and will exacerbate problems experienced by my community. 

I am at risk of discrimination from employers because of perceived potential for diminished productivity. Having a physical disability simply impacts the type of employment I can secure and maintain. Having a dependent whose health progressively debilitates, and therefore increases the demands on my caretaking responsibilities, can potentially impact my ability to work. In other words, an employer could easily decide not to hire me given my likelihood of using the benefit. 

Further, the current proposal conveys the risk of losing any protections that may be included if changes are made to the legislation by future administrations. Should my elder’s health or my disability require me to take time away from my job in order to care for her or tend to my own wellbeing, access barriers compounded by an absence of job protections could ensure catastrophe. Career changes and fluctuations in employment, which many immigrants face, require portability. For those living with chronic conditions, gaps in eligibility can be devastating. Health is a human right and this proposal does little to ensure that all who need paid leave will receive the time they need for care.

Victoria Gomez Betancourt