Workers want paid leave to participate in their children's schools

Kari Marx will tell you flat out why she left her last employer: She wants to be involved in her children's school. For Marx, that means being able to come to work a little later once in a while or extend her lunch hour to help at a class party or oversee an arts activity.

``It takes some schedule management,'' says Marx, an accounting manager at Ultimate Software in Weston. ``But it's important to me.''

With more than 70 percent of American children raised by working parents, flexibility is one of the most important benefits employers can give workers who are moms and dads. Unfortunately, many parents, particularly lower-wage workers, don't have jobs with flexibility or leave policies they can use to attend school functions.

As the school year starts, recent government actions bear some good news: Legislators are creating policies to address this issue. Twelve states and the District of Columbia now require that employers give school-involvement leave to allow parents to attend conferences or other school-related events. Florida is not among the states. The policies vary in whether the leave is just for state employees or all working parents. Some states require paid leave and even provide employers income tax deductions for giving workers time off.

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