The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which was signed into law under the Clinton administration allows up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for workers who are recovering from a serious illness, and for family caregivers to care for ailing spouse, parents, or children (including new children). With the exception of some highly paid employees, it generally allows individuals to keep their job.
But, there are limitations – important ones that could catch many families off guard. I read a blog post on nextavenue.org that you might find interesting (link below) that outlines the limitations of current legislation and what changes new legislation may be bringing us shortly. In the meantime, if you are anticipating the need for a family leave in the future, understand the limitations of the current laws so you can plan for your family.
Don’t assume that your friend who works for another employer can explain what will happen to you when you need family leave. Misunderstandings abound because some employers offer more than what is required (like paid instead of unpaid leave). Below are some of the things that catch people by surprise:
- Only employers with 50 or more employees must offer family leave.
- Not every reason for leave is covered – must be a “serious medical condition.” (In other words, many of the reasons you might want to take a family leave are not covered.)
- Although it’s very generous when an employer pays you while on family leave, they don’t have to. Be sure to plan ahead for extended time without a paycheck.
- Employers can make you earn the right to take your family leave by holding you to the minimum requirement of 12 months or 1,250 hours before you qualify.
- Only particular family members are eligible for family leave. This is especially troubling for non-traditional, inter-generational, or blended families. Basically, caring for your spouse, your minor children, and your parents makes you eligible (meaning, in-laws, grandparents, adult children and siblings don’t count). Ouch!
So, if you’re gearing up to take your own leave, make sure you understand the law, and the manner in which your employer implements the law. An attorney can always assist you, but there are a number of very helpful online resources that can get you some answers. The link below suggests some good ones.www.decorolaw.com