Indexed on: 05 Aug '08Published on: 05 Aug '08Published in: Pediatrics
The ability of employed parents to meet the health needs of their children may depend on their access to sick leave, especially for low-income workers, who may be afforded less flexibility in their work schedules to accommodate these needs yet also more likely to have children in poor health. Our goal was to provide rates of access to paid sick leave and paid vacation leave among low-income families with children and to assess whether access to these benefits is associated with parents' leave taking to care for themselves or others.We used a sample of low-income families (<200% of the federal poverty level) with children aged 0 to 17 years in the 2003 and 2004 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey to examine bivariate relationships between access to and use of paid leave and characteristics of children, families, and parents' employer.Access to paid leave was lower among children in low-income families than among those in families with higher income. Within low-income families, children without >or=1 full-time worker in the household were especially likely to lack access to this benefit, as were children whose parents work for small employers. Among children whose parents had access to paid sick leave, parents were more likely to take time away from work to care for themselves or others. This relationship is even more pronounced among families with the highest need, such as children in fair or poor health and children with all parents in full-time employment.Legislation mandating paid sick leave could dramatically increase access to this benefit among low-income families. It would likely diminish gaps in parents' leave taking to care for others between families with and without the benefit. However, until the health-related consequences are better understood, the full impact of such legislation remains unknown.