February 5, 2014, Helene Jorgensen and Eileen Appelbaum

The Family and Medical Leave Act provides job-protected, unpaid leave to employees in firms with 50 or more employees. However, coverage and eligibility restrictions result in 49.3 million employees (44.1 percent) in the private sector being ineligible for leave in 2012. This paper looks at eligibility by demographic characteristics and finds that the probability of being eligible increases with educational attainment. Young men with high school degrees or less had the lowest rate of FMLA eligibility of all the demographic groups. Our analysis of the FMLA Employee and Workplace surveys examines various proposals to expand eligibility coverage. Expanding FMLA coverage to smaller employers and to employees working fewer hours would increase access to job-protected leave for 1.4 million to 8.3 million more employees in the private sector. Women of childbearing age would especially benefit from an expansion in eligibility coverage.

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