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Employer Leave Helps the Parents of Chronically Ill Kids

According to a RAND Corporation study issued today,working parents are more able to care for their chronically ill children when given greater access to federal and employer-provided time off from their jobs.

We found that having the time and financial flexibility to miss work is clearly important for parents who have children with serious chronic illnesses, said lead author Dr. Paul Chung, senior natural scientist at RAND and assistant professor of pediatrics at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA.

Children in our study missed an average of four weeks of school or daycare a year, added Dr. Mark Schuster, senior author of the study and director of the health promotion and disease prevention program at RAND Health. They also had 12 doctor or emergency department visits and one hospitalization.

Unfortunately, many parents who don't have access to family leave are forced to choose between being with their child and keeping their job, said Schuster, who is also professor and vice-chair of pediatrics at UCLA.

Researchers at RAND, a nonprofit research organization, surveyed 574 full-time employed parents of chronically ill children between November 2003 and January 2004. The study examined the availability of paid and unpaid leaves of absence from work, how often parents missed work to care for their ill children, and the length of absences from work.

Researchers found that less than half of the parents interviewed qualified for benefits under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act. The law provides eligible workers up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave per year to care for ill family members without the risk of being fired.

Only 30 percent of parents reported having employer-provided leave that could be used to care for ill family members, and just 15 percent reported having access to paid leave.

Most parents reported missing some work in the past year to care for their ill children. Of thos
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