Employment, Family Leave, and Parents of Newborns or Seriously Ill Children

Published in: Academic Pediatrics, v. 12, no. 3, May-June 2012, p. 181-188

Posted on RAND.org on May 01, 2012

by Paul J. Chung, Camillia Lui, Burton O. Cowgill, Geoffrey Hoffman, Jacinta Elijah, Mark A. Schuster

Read More

Access further information on this document at Academic Pediatrics

This article was published outside of RAND. The full text of the article can be found at the link above.

Research Question

  1. Do parents of newborns and seriously ill children know about, and take advantage, of family leave?

OBJECTIVES: Parents of newborns and children with special health care needs (CSHCN) often experience conflict between employment and family responsibilities. Family leave benefits such as the federal Family and Medical Leave Act and California's Paid Family Leave Insurance program help employed parents miss work to bond with a newborn or care for an ill child. The use of these benefits, however, is rare among mothers of CSHCN and fathers in general and limited even among mothers of newborns. We explored barriers to and experiences with leave-taking among parents of newborns and CSHCN. METHODS: We conducted semistructured qualitative interviews in 2008 with 10 mothers and 10 fathers of newborns and 10 mothers and 10 fathers of CSHCN in Los Angeles to explore their need for and experiences with family leave. Qualitative analytical techniques were used to identify themes in the transcripts. RESULTS: All parents reported difficulties in accessing and using benefits, including lack of knowledge by employers, complexity of rules and processes, and inadequacy of the benefits themselves. Parents of CSHCN also described being too overwhelmed to rapidly seek and process information in the setting of urgent and often unexpected health crises. Most parents expressed a clear desire for expert guidance and saw hospitals and clinics as potentially important providers. CONCLUSIONS: Even when parents are aware of family leave options, substantial barriers prevent many, especially parents of CSHCN, from learning about or applying for benefits. Clinics and hospitals might be opportune settings to reach vulnerable parents at times of need.

Key Finding

  • Even when parents are aware of family leave options, substantial barriers prevent many, especially parents of seriously ill children, from learning about or applying for benefits.

Recommendation

  • Clinics and hospitals might be opportune settings to reach vulnerable parents at times of need.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation external publication series. Many RAND studies are published in peer-reviewed scholarly journals, as chapters in commercial books, or as documents published by other organizations.

The RAND Corporation is a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis. RAND's publications do not necessarily reflect the opinions of its research clients and sponsors.