Family leave plays a vital role in children’s healthy development by allowing parents who work to take time off to provide care after the birth or adoption of a child and when a child is sick. The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) guarantees job-protected unpaid leave to eligible workers to care for themselves or a family member in times of illness, birth or adoption. However, FMLA eligibility is limited to employees who work for covered employers and meet certain job hour and tenure requirements. As a result, a large share of working parents are excluded from FMLA protections, particularly vulnerable minorities such as Hispanic workers. Moreover, the unpaid nature of FMLA leave may make it financially difficult for parents to take time off. The share of working parents able to access FMLA leave drops considerably when affordability is taken into account. Importantly, this affordability barrier is not evenly distributed by race/ethnicity or nativity. Across the United States, black, Hispanic and foreign-born working parents are substantially less likely to be eligible for and able to afford FMLA unpaid leave. Use the interactive chart below to explore differences in FMLA eligibility and affordability for working parents at the national level or for a specific state.
While the FMLA covers three-fifths of workers in the U.S., there is still a large share of workers (40%) who are not eligible for FMLA unpaid leave. An even higher share of working parents (51%) are not eligible for FMLA leave. Workers excluded by FMLA eligibility criteria represent a disproportionate share of low-wage workers with low educational attainment. FMLA minimum hour and tenure requirements for employees exclude some part-time workers, contingent workers, new immigrants (who may not meet the 12 month tenure requirement), and migrant farmworkers or other seasonal workers. Nationwide, an especially large share of Hispanic foreign-born working parents are ineligible for FMLA job-protected leave, which may have repercussions for their families' and children's health. Use the interactive chart below to explore differences in FMLA eligibility by race/ethnicity and nativity at the national level or for a particular state.
FMLA eligibility is already limited, and once family income is taken into account, the share of working parents potentially able to access FMLA leave is even further reduced. An extremely low proportion of Hispanic foreign-born working parents are eligible and can potentially afford FMLA unpaid leave. Use the interactive chart below to examine how the share of parents eligible for and able to afford FMLA leave differs across race/ethnicity and nativity at the national level or for a specific state.