Time Off to Care for a Sick Child

Why Family-Leave Policies Matter

Published In: The New England Journal of Medicine, v. 371, no. 6, Aug. 2014, p. 493-495

by Mark A. Schuster, Paul J. Chung

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There is substantial unmet need for parental leave to care for chronically ill children. Yet about half of U.S. employees do not receive any paid sick days that they are allowed to use to care for family members. When parents without such sick days stay home from work to care for an ill child, they can be fired or otherwise penalized. Flexible schedules and telecommuting can help, especially for parents with a chronically ill child. Although some employers have raised concerns about potential misuse of paid-sick-leave benefits, the risk of fraud can be minimized through employer policies requiring certification of health conditions. Ultimately sensible family leave benefits help families and employers. Studies have shown that most employees use these types of benefits to deal with the real demands of real illnesses, which reduces health care costs to employers.

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