Family and Medical Leave Act and Caregivers at Work
It is a safe assumption that many caregivers who work outside their homes are aware of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA.) Even if some American workers are not aware of FMLA yet, this blog steers you in the right direction and shares one caregiver’s perspective on when and whether you wish to invoke your FMLA rights, *if eligible.
FMLA is Federal Law
FMLA requires *eligible employees to take an unpaid leave up to 12 work weeks in any 12 month period. *The 12-month window is defined by the employer’s prevailing practice or policy. With *required medical certification, *subject to employer approval the eligible employee is allowed to take the approved leave for the birth of a child, to care for a family member who has a serious medical condition, or, if the employee has a serious medical condition which requires such leave.
(*The above layperson’s descriptive of FMLA does not constitute legal advice by this blogger and/or the owner of this website and/or any third parties involved in the publication or dissemination of this blog. Comprehensive information on the FMLA is available through the U.S. Department of Labor’s website at <www.dol.gov>.)
Caregivers at Work
Some workers view FMLA as an all-or-nothing package. Nothing could be further from the truth. FML can be a strategic work and life decision if you so choose and are eligible under the law.
Timing is Everything
If the person in your care is chronically ill with multiple chronic diseases requiring primary physician, specialized medical, and other healthcare intervention, using FML for one serious medical condition may preclude using FML for other equally serious medical conditions. Such a scenario would hold true if the caregiver exhausts the 12-week FML entitlement through consecutive leave use.
I cannot and would not tell anyone else how to handle your FML eligibility. I am happy to share the conscious decision I made for 10+ years in my then-part-time caregiver-worker bee roles.
I chose to not invoke my FML for one reason only.
My mother has multiple chronic illnesses as medically diagnosed. I mindfully considered worst-case outcomes for each of her medical diagnoses.
I decided that brief hospitalizations, major surgeries without medical complications, and post-surgical weekly follow-ups were best managed through advance planning, scheduling, and careful management of my accrued (paid) leave benefits at work. Non-emergency surgeries were scheduled in advance, allowing me ample time to take an approved vacation day, or 2, while I actively monitored and evaluated whether I might need to apply for FML, or not.
For me, only, it really was that simple. I never invoked my FML right nor did I use all of my accrued leave for caregiving in any year. Think strategically is all I can say.
Isabel Fawcett, SPHR
Isabel has been a full-time, stay-at-home caregiver to her 85 year old mother for 2 years, and counting. She is a regular Contributor at ElderCareLink, a blogger and Twitterer. Isabel is an independent human resources consultant and former HR management professional with 20+ years of HR experience, including FMLA, workers’ compensation and the Americans With Disabilities Act. She is a Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR) certified and last worked for the Office of the Governor in Texas before her most recent eldercare choice. Isabel also has worked in healthcare as Assistant Director of Volunteers at Beth Israel Medical Center, New York City, and Manager of Staffing and Recruitment, Norwalk Hospital, Connecticut. She has also worked at Marriott International Headquarters in HR. Isabel is fully bilingual in English and Spanish and has been a patient care volunteer for the American Red Cross overseas.