March 22, 2007
Many family leave policies do not provide enough flexibility and support for the unique needs of caregivers who provide physical and emotional help to seriously ill family members.
Senate Bill 996, which was not approved by the legislature in 2007, said that if an employee is entitled to sick leave or other paid time off, then an employer would allow the employee to tap one of those blocks of time (it would be the employer’s choice which) to care for certain family members. The bill specified that an employee could use that time only to care for a child, spouse, parent or grandparent with a serious health condition or emergency condition. The bill would not have granted any new benefit. It simply allows for flexibility in how one’s time off is used.
Texas, along with 39 other states, allows public employees to use sick leave to care for an ailing family member. However, there is nothing in the Labor Code that allows private employees to do the same thing. California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Minnesota, Washington, and Wisconsin have all given this right to all workers, regardless of whom they work for.
At least six in ten informal caregivers juggle work and care-giving responsibilities in order to meet both their own financial obligations and the costs of caring for a loved one. There are an estimated 1.9 million informal caregivers in Texas, and they provide approximately 2.1 billion hours per year of care. That’s a market value of $18 billion. Beyond that economic significance, caregivers save Texas money by providing more affordable treatment and keeping patients out of emergency rooms.