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Issue Brief

Qualifying for Unpaid Leave: FMLA Eligibility among Working Mothers

Title
Qualifying for Unpaid Leave: FMLA Eligibility among Working Mothers
Date
January 2017
Author(s)
Jeff Hayes, Ph.D., Dallas Elgin, Ph.D., Ye Zhang, Ph.D., Sandeep Shetty, Ph.D., Jessica Smith, MPP
Market
Workforce Development
Services
Policy/Program Analysis
Applied Research Studies
Methodologies
Cost-benefit Analysis
Simulation
Survey Analysis

The participation rate of mothers in the labor force has increased significantly over the last four decades. Similarly, the share of households with mothers of children under the age of 18 as the sole or primary income earner has grown substantially.

However, while the role of mothers as sole or primary income earners in the household has increased significantly over time, time use data suggest that mothers continue to be the primary caregivers. The Family Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA) has played an important role in supporting mothers in balancing their family and career obligations.

Previous research has found positive associations between the use of FMLA leave and improved health outcomes for newborn children, including increased birthweights, increased rates of breastfeeding, and decreased infant mortality.  However, a considerable number of working mothers are ineligible for FMLA and its associated benefits.

This issue brief explores FMLA eligibility among working mothers, and the reasons and likelihood of taking leave using data from the 2012 DOL FMLA Employee Survey.