In 1993, the Family and Medical Leave Act was passed to help employees balance medical needs with workplace demands. During a 12-month period, employees are allowed to use up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for a personal serious health situation, or to provide care for an immediate family member with a serious health condition. FMLA is also available for an extended parental leave for the adoption or birth of a child, and for bonding with a new foster child.
If your employee is a caregiver to an immediate family member, familiarize yourself with your state’s definition. Federal law indicates that immediate family members are children, spouses, and parents. Many states have extended the definition to include grandparents, siblings, parents-in-law, and domestic partners, so check your state’s labor laws and with your organization’s human resources department.
Not all employees qualify for extended leave protection under the FMLA. Eligible workers must have worked for at least 12 months for the employer before asking for the leave. During those 12 months, they must also have worked at least 1,250 hours. That translates to roughly 156 days for a person working an eight-hour day. Additionally, the organization must have at least 50 workers employed within 75 miles of its location.
The FLMA requires that employees give 30 days’ notice of the need for the leave under foreseeable circumstances. Not every family or personal emergency qualifies for FMLA leave. Employees can request FMLA leave only for particular reasons. Leave may be requested for the following reasons:
- Birth, adoption, or foster care: Employees who become a new or foster parent may take FMLA leave during the first year of the birth of the baby, or placement of a foster child in their home. They can start the leave before the baby arrives for prenatal care or to prepare for the child’s arrival. When both parents work for the same business, they may be allowed less leave.
- Employee’s serious health condition: An employee can request FMLA leave to recover from a serious health issue. The definition of a serious health condition is an employee who has a chronic serious health problem, needs inpatient treatment, or cannot perform normal activities for three days while under a physician’s care.
- Immediate family member’s serious health condition: Workers are allowed to take leave to attend to a seriously ill family member. However, only certain family members, such as parents, spouses, and children, are included. In-laws, domestic partners, grandparents, and siblings may or may not be covered, depending on state laws.
- Qualifying requirements related to a family member’s active duty: Employees are entitled to take leave to manage several urgent matters resulting from a relative’s military active duty or call to active duty. Only certain activities are covered, such as spending time with a family member on temporary rest and recuperation leave, seeking counseling, arranging childcare, attending military events, or about to be deployed.
- A family member’s service-related illness or injury: If your employee’s blood relative suffers an illness or sustains a serious injury while on active military duty, they can take up to 26 weeks of leave in one 12-month period to provide care. This leave doesn’t refresh every 12 months; It is a per-injury, per-service-member requirement. Unless the same relative returns to active duty and sustains another injury or another family member in the military is injured, the employee is not eligible for any more leave once the 26-week leave is exhausted.
Organizations subject to the FMLA have certain obligations to workers who take FMLA leave. For instance, they must return most employees to their former positions, or comparable ones in some circumstances, permit workers to use paid time off such as sick and vacation time during unpaid FMLA leave under particular conditions, and provide continued health insurance while on leave.
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