RELEASE: New CAP Data Demonstrate the Importance of Paid Leave for People With Disabilities

Washington, D.C. — A new Center for American Progress analysis of the 2018 Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) employee survey explains how people with disabilities need access to paid family and medical leave and why it should be considered a disability rights issue.

CAP conducted a new analysis of the survey, which looked at respondents who took medical leave in the past 12 months for an “ongoing health condition that affects one’s ability to work from time to time, such as diabetes, migraines, depression, or multiple sclerosis” as a proxy for disability status.

  • Nearly 16 percent of workers who took leave in the past 12 months may have done so for a disability, as they took medical leave for an ongoing medical condition. Women and Black workers were disproportionately represented among those who took medical leave for an ongoing health condition in the past 12 months.
  • Twenty-nine percent of workers who may have had a disability were also caring for one or more children under the age of 18—dispelling the assumption that people with disabilities are only recipients of care, not providers of care.
  • Twenty-nine percent of all workers who took their most recent leave for caregiving in the past 12 months were providing care for a person with an ongoing health condition, such as a disability. People with disabilities may need greater direct care from their family to help manage their health condition and may therefore need family members to have access to paid leave for caregiving purposes.
  • Workers who took medical leave for an ongoing health condition were less likely than all leave-takers to receive pay while on leave and more likely to report financial difficulty to make ends meet while on leave. This is especially challenging since people with disabilities already face high rates of poverty and numerous barriers to economic security.

“The emergency paid leave laws passed by Congress in response to the coronavirus pandemic were an important first step toward a national paid leave program, but they were not fully inclusive toward the 61 million Americans who have a disability,” said Rebecca Cokley, director of the Disability Justice Initiative at the Center for American Progress. “The number of Americans living with a disability is expected to grow dramatically in the coming years due to the not-yet-fully-understood long-term effects of COVID-19, so it’s imperative that Congress pass a permanent, national paid family and medical leave policy that would allow disabled people economic stability while they care for themselves or their loved ones.”

Read the column: “The Disability Community Needs Paid Family and Medical Leave” by Diana Boesch and Rebecca Cokley

For more information or to speak to an expert, please contact Julia Cusick at .