Families, parents, and caregivers rally in front of the US Capitol to call on Congress to include paid family and medical leave in the ‘Build Back Better’ legislative package on November 2. | Paul Morigi/Getty Images for PL+US

If passed, it would be transformative for women’s workplace participation and economic growth.

The need for paid leave has only become more clear during the pandemic.

In the last two years, workers have been forced to juggle caregiving, sick leave, and professional responsibilities, often facing impossible choices among all three. Many women, who’ve borne the brunt of these demands, have reduced their involvement in the workforce or left it altogether.

Democrats hope to tackle these issues with a new measure included in their Build Back Better Act. It passed the House of Representatives last week, and would guarantee US workers four weeks of paid family and sick leave, a major protection that millions of people don’t currently have. At the moment, however, the provision’s chances of passing the Senate are uncertain given pushback from Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) — and the narrow margins the party has to advance legislation.

The US’s recent loss of women workers has been striking. At the start of the pandemic, 3.5 million moms of school-age children temporarily or permanently left their jobs, according to the Associated Press. As of this fall, one in three women said they’ve considered leaving the workforce or “downshifting” their jobs, according to a McKinsey study. And per data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, thousands of women still haven’t returned to the labor force after departing during the pandemic.

There’s a host of reasons for these departures, but as Vox’s Rani Molla has reported, women are far more likely than men to have significant caregiving responsibilities. And these responsibilities have surged during the pandemic, when many women have taken on caregiving for their...

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