How much would family and medical leave cost workers in the US? Racial/ethnic variation in economic hardship under unpaid and paid policies. By: Joshi, Pamela; Baldiga, Maura; Earle, Alison; Huber, Rebecca; Osypuk, Theresa; Acevedo-Garcia, Dolores. Community, Work & Family. December 2021, Vol. 24 Issue 5, p517-540. 24p.

Using a capability approach, this study assesses economic constraints under the current US national unpaid family and medical leave (FML) policy compared to a hypothetical national paid FML policy for all full-year workers. Existing literature documents gender and class differences in barriers to FML use, but there is limited research on racial/ethnic minority workers. Our results indicate that if FML policy changed from unpaid to paid leave, black workers would gain a greater percentage of family income back relative to white workers, due in part to their larger wage contributions to family income. However, moving to a paid FML policy has a lower likelihood of preventing short-term economic hardship for black and Hispanic workers, compared to white workers. Our findings are consistent with studies, of which there are few, that show that paid FML can decrease, but not eliminate, disparities in black and Hispanic working mothers’ capability to take up parental leave and use leave for longer durations. Therefore, further design modifications to FML policy are needed for paid leave to be fully protective of all workers who need to take leave without facing economic hardship.