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Paid Family Leave and Older Adults

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Paid Family Leave and Older Adults

Paid family leave refers to policies that allow workers to take time off from work to recover from illness, to care for a seriously ill family member or to bond with a newly born or adopted child. During these leaves, workers receive some form of financial payment and do not have to worry about losing their jobs.

Many people associate paid family leave with younger individuals because they assume that older adults are retired and no longer working. However, today about 30 percent of adults ages 65 and older are still employed. While each worker has their own reason for staying in the workforce longer, many continue to work due to financial insecurity and longer life expectancy. Unfortunately, as the demographics of the workforce continue to evolve, many of the policies have stayed the same.

According to the National Partnership for Women and Families, paid family leave is important for older adults because:

  • Older workers need paid leave to manage their own health needs and continue working. Older adults are more likely to suffer from health conditions, including chronic conditions requiring regular care. At least 80 percent of older adults have at least one chronic condition. If older workers are going to stay healthy and productive they need policies that allow them to take time away from work to manage their serious health conditions.
  • As the population ages and people live longer, it will become more common for workers to serve as caregivers–increasing the need for paid leave. There are at least 43.5 million caregivers of adults over 50 in the United States. Most of them have paying jobs in addition to their caregiving responsibilities. These family caregivers need time off when an elderly parent or relative faces an injury or serious illness – such as a stroke or a diagnosis of cancer – and they need policies that acknowledge these caregiving responsibilities. With the population of older adults in the United States expected to swell to 20 percent of the population, or 72 million people, by 2030, this need will inevitably grow

Paid family leave is particularly beneficial for Hispanic older adults. On average, Hispanic older adults live longer than other ethnic groups in the U.S., but are more susceptible to illness. Furthermore, Hispanic older adult men have an above average labor force participation rate, but the Latino population as a whole is still disproportionately affected by poverty, with the rate being 18.7% for Hispanic older adults. Job-protected leave would provide a small piece of additional economic security to those that are still working.

The National Hispanic Council on Aging (NHCOA) supports paid family leave work policies for everyone. Over the past year, NHCOA has been working across the country to raise awareness and empower all Hispanics to advocate for paid family leave laws at the local and state level.


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