A Single Dad Needed Help To Care For His Sick Son. His Co-Workers Majorly Delivered.

"Without this great support, I would be unemployed."

When single dad Andreas Graff learned his now 4-year-old son, Julius, was diagnosed with leukemia in January 2017, the assembly worker from Hesse, Germany wondered how he would be able to take Julius to his necessary medical treatments while still holding down a job in order to pay for the child's care.

As reported by The BBC, Graff started by using all of his unpaid holiday leave, but that was exhausted pretty quickly because Julius, then three, had to be confined to a bed for the first nine weeks of his treatment. Fearful he'd lose his job if he took any more time off, Graff was at a loss. Thankfully, an HR manager named Pia Meier at Seidel, the design company where he works, was aware of the situation and was able to formulate a creative solution.

According to the BBC, Meier obtained the support of senior management and the workers' union, and then called on all of the employees of the company to contribute to an overtime fundraiser. In other words, Seidel's workers were asked to contribute their own earned overtime hours to Graff, so he could use the paid time to care for his ailing son.

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Within two weeks of the start of the fundraiser, a total of 3,264.5 hours were collected. As Meier explained to German paper Oberhessische Presse, "The reaction of our employees was incredible." So incredible, in fact, that Meier went on to claim all of Seidel's 700+ employees made a contribution to help Graff.

"Without this great support, I would be unemployed," Graff told the local publication, adding that his son is now on the mend. In fact, the fundraiser allowed Graff more than a year of paid time off to care for Julius without fear of losing his job, and also permitted him to grieve the loss of his wife who died from heart disease just as Julius was being released from the hospital.

While a selfless gesture on such a large scale deserves to be celebrated, Graff's situation highlights the need for better family leave laws worldwide, especially since his native Germany is thought to be particularly generous in that arena. As noted by Upworthy, both mothers and fathers are able to take paid leave following the birth of a child in Germany, but as the child ages the rules get a bit more complicated. In Graff's case, because his son was almost four at the time of his leukemia diagnosis, he wouldn't have been able to take paternal leave and be guaranteed his job when he returned.

Generally speaking, family leave in the United States is even less generous. Though the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) mandates some employers permit eligible employees to take up to 12 weeks off in a 12-month period for family and medical emergencies, that time off is unpaid, making it an unaffordable option for many.

Furthermore, the Pew Research Center found access to paid family leave varies widely across employers and industries. According to a 2017 study, in private industry, access to paid family leave is most common in the finance and insurance, information, and professional, scientific and technical services sectors, with (on average) about a third of the workers in each of those arenas able to access paid family leave. By contrast, paid family leave was only available to five percent and six percent, respectively, of workers in the construction and leisure/hospitality sectors.

However, certain states do seem to making strides when it comes to reforming a broken family leave system. California's Paid Family Leave program, for example, allows for six weeks paid leave to care for loved ones, while Jay Inslee, the governor of Washington state, proposed his own paid family and medical leave program earlier this month.

Cover image via  LightField Studios / Shutterstock.

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