Paid Family Medical Leave supports not just me, but my company.

About ten years ago, I checked into the hospital with high blood pressure directly before doctors induced the birth of my first child, Micah, who weighed just 4 pounds 14 ounces. Doctors rushed him to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, connecting him to a feeding tube, heart monitor, IV, and under a lamp for jaundice. I was a new mom; I was scared, and I needed to spend time with my newborn son. I did everything to piece together three months of leave between my sick and vacation time. When I returned to work, Micah was still significantly underweight.

Micah in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.

Micah in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.

Me and Micah. He’s so tiny!

Me and Micah. He’s so tiny!

Two years later, my partner had our second son, Emmet. After another traumatic labor, my partner suffered from maternal depression. I juggled constant stress at work, knowing that she was struggling to feel well enough physically and mentally just to get out of bed — let alone cook and care for our two small kids.

Overall, we got lucky: we have two brilliant and wild boys, and we had access to the necessary medical attention when it mattered most. As I look back, I know I did the best I could under the circumstances, but I also know that I would have parented better and returned to work much more effectively if a paid family medical leave program had allowed me to care for my family after the births of our children.

“…it is a priority of mine as an executive to provide paid family medical leave to our team, not only because of my own experience, but because research shows that this benefit results in positive outcomes for companies.”

I am currently working in my seventeenth year as a nonprofit CEO, and it is a priority of mine as an executive to provide paid family medical leave to our team, not only because of my own experience, but because research shows that this benefit results in positive outcomes for companies. For our organization, there is no doubt we maintain better morale, productivity, retention, and a more loyal team by providing paid family medical leave. I have had employees use leave to welcome new babies to their family, undergo major surgery, and to care for a spouse after a major accident or a parent with cancer. I currently have two staff members out on maternity leave.

But paid family medical leave is not an easy undertaking for a mid-sized nonprofit. We cobble together paid leave through PTO banking, short-term disability, and a significant budget line item that we fundraise to cover.

Metro Caring welcomed over 30,000 individuals who visited our free grocery program last year. In my time as CEO, I listen to individuals and families with lower incomes losing their housing, getting their lights shut off, or finding themselves unable to put food on the table. Why? Because in far too many cases they missed work for the birth of a child, because they fought a brain tumor, or because their wife or child faced cancer. I have seen people fired because they needed to take a week off work to take care of themselves or a loved one.

The legislation introduced this last session would create a paid family leave system, administered by the state, giving working Coloradans 12 weeks of paid leave, equally matched by both the employee and the employer. This change would allow Metro Caring to do the smart thing, and the right thing, without sweating it every year as we build a budget that tries to anticipate how this will affect the organization. More importantly, it would provide this benefit to all Coloradans, including low-wage workers whose employers are much less likely to provide this type of leave (or any paid time off)—the benefit that allowed me to piece together the minimal time I had with my newborn sons.

“The legislation introduced this last session would create a paid family leave system, administered by the state, giving working Coloradans 12 weeks of paid leave, equally matched by both the employee and the employer.”

Twelve years ago, I did not have paid family medical leave, had a difficult childbirth, and got lucky.  Now, I provide paid family medical leave at the organization I direct, knowing that it benefits our company.  In Colorado, 12% of private sector employers provide paid family medical leave.  It is time for the state to provide this to all Coloradans, not just the lucky minority who have employers who see its value.  Metro Caring as an organization and I as a mother will stand in strong support of legislation providing paid family medical leave next year, and invite everyone in our vibrant Metro Caring community to join me.

Teva Sienicki