2018 Employee and Worksite Perspectives of the Family and Medical Leave Act National Surveys
The 1993 Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) allows eligible employees working for covered employers to take up to 12 work weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave for certain family and medical reasons.
To gain knowledge of how employees and employers understand and experience FMLA, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) surveyed employees and employers in 1995, 2000, 2012, and 2018. The 2018 surveys consisted of two separate surveys, one for employees and one for worksites. Interviews were conducted by phone and online. The 4,470 employees surveyed were working-age adults employed in the public or private sector in the 12 months prior to the survey. The worksite survey consisted of 2,206 employers, both covered and uncovered by FMLA.
Explore findings from the 2018 surveys broadly in the sets of reports, supplemental results, and various issue briefs listed below, or take a deeper dive into the data with the public use data files. To learn more about the previous wave of surveys visit the 2012 Family and Medical Leave Act Surveys.
- Executive Summary for Results from the 2018 Surveys
- Results from the 2018 Surveys
- Supplemental Results from the 2018 Surveys
- Methodology Report for the 2018 Surveys
- Methodology Report Appendices for the 2018 Surveys
- Who is Eligible? (Study Brief)
- Employee Leave-Taking Patterns (Study Brief)
- Paid Leave (Study Brief)
Public Use Data
Public use data files are available for the 2018 surveys. The public use file documentation guide provides an overview of both surveys’ public-use files. Included below are public-use datasets in SAS and Stata, the dataset codebook, and sample programs in SAS and Stata for reading in the datasets and running descriptive statistics.
2018 FMLA Employee Survey Data
- Employee SAS read in program to assign formats (.sas)
- Employee SAS sample code (.sas)
- Employee Stata sample code (.do)
2018 FMLA Worksite Survey Data
- What are the primary reasons for employees using FMLA-qualifying leave?
- What are the patterns of FMLA coverage, awareness, and use among employees, and how are they the same or different across the four survey waves?
- What are employers’ FMLA policies and practices?
- What are employers’ administrative and management practices related to FMLA, and how are they similar or different across the four survey waves?
- More than 95 percent of worksites surveyed reported positive or neutral perceptions of the overall effect of FMLA on their productivity, profitability, and employees, with 4 percent reporting negative effects.
- More than 90 percent of worksites surveyed reported no difficulty in complying with FMLA requirements overall.
- Overall, 56 percent of employees surveyed were eligible for FMLA.
- Overall, 7 percent of employees surveyed reported needing but not taking leave (“unmet need”) for a qualifying FMLA reason in the previous 12 months.
- “Low-wage workers” more often reported an unmet need for leave for a qualifying FMLA reason.
- When there was an unmet need, employees surveyed often postponed or avoided medical treatment needed for their own or another’s health.
- Many employees surveyed did not fully understand FMLA, with about 27 percent incorrectly believing they meet eligibility requirements and 56 percent believing FMLA covers more than it does.
- Eighty-two percent of employees surveyed were at worksites providing access to some form of leave for at least one qualifying FMLA reason. Access might include policies such as family or maternity/paternity leave or paid sick leave.
- Two-thirds of employees surveyed who received partial or no pay while on leave reported experiencing financial difficulty, with most limiting spending to compensate. Other strategies included: using savings, borrowing money, delaying bill payments, cutting leave short, and going on public assistance.
The Department of Labor's (DOL) Chief Evaluation Office (CEO) sponsors independent evaluations and research, primarily conducted by external, third-party contractors in accordance with the Department of Labor Evaluation Policy. CEO’s research development process includes extensive technical review at the design, data collection and analysis stage, including: external contractor review and OMB review and approval of data collection methods and instruments per the Paperwork Reduction Act (PRA), review by academic peers (e.g., Technical Working Groups), and inputs from relevant DOL agency and program officials and CEO technical staff. Final reports undergo an additional independent expert technical review and a review for Section 508 compliance prior to publication. The resulting reports represent findings from this independent research and do not represent DOL positions or policies.