Caregivers and FMLA Leave

FMLAAs a caregiver, you have rights, including those that may be provided for you under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), to take a job leave to care for your seriously ill family member. In addition to the federal law, you may be provided some relief under state laws.

Knowing which laws apply to you, as a caregiver, and how to approach your employer can ease the stress and help you get everything you are entitled to in terms of benefits and leave time.

What Federal Law Offers

If you are eligible under FMLA, you can take a total of 12 weeks of unpaid leave during any 12-month period for a variety of reasons, including taking care of an immediate family member (spouse, child or parent) with a serious health condition, including cancer.
Eligible employees have been employed for at least 12 months, worked at least 1,250 hours during the 12 months immediately before the requested leave, and are at a work site where 50 or more employees are employed by the company within 75 miles of that work site. Employers with 50 or more workers are covered by the Act.
If you are covered by FMLA, you get the right to take a medical leave, if your request is valid, and have your job back (or an equivalent job, defined as one with the same pay, benefits and responsibilities) when you return. Nevertheless, it does not include the right to be paid.

For additional information: US. Department of Labor

Handling the Logistics of FMLA

Family medical leave act-plaid lady and tiny beige mother_0Both you and your employer are required to communicate about FMLA rights and requests. Employers are bound to notify their workers about their FMLA rights and you are asked to provide 30 days’ notice of your need for leave, if the need is “foreseeable.” If you do not know that far ahead, or the circumstances change, you are required to request the leave as soon as it is practical. You, as a worker-caregiver, must also give your employer enough information to know that it is a FMLA-eligible leave.

As a worker-caregiver, you must tell your employer that you need to take time off to care for a relative with a “serious health condition.” Your employer can ask you to prove it. In that case, you would provide certification from the patient’s health care provider.

Check your State Laws

Depending on where you work; you could be afforded more help under state laws. (Alternatively, your state may have additional FMLA requirements). For instance, at least 26 states have regulations or laws that will permit caregivers, if they are public employees, to use their sick leave to provide care for sick family members, according to the National Partnership for Women & Families, a Washington, D.C, based organization that helped to push for FMLA and other protections.

Deven McGraw, policy counsel and attorney, National Partnership for Women and Families; a nonprofit educational and advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C., which helped to lead the effort for FMLA in 1993.

Deanna Gelak, Executive Director of the FMLA Corrections Coalition and President of Working for the Future; a Virginia-based organization that promotes work-family flexibility.

For more resources for employees visit

About Sue Salach

Sue has a Master's degree in Gerontology and has worked with the elderly and their families for over 30 years and is the Author of "Along Comes Grandpa", a caregiving resource guide, and the novel "If I Walked in Her Shoes". As an ElderCare Expert and Keynote Speaker, Sue employs her comprehensive experience and passion, to educate and promote self-care values to family caregivers and the community at large.
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