When Personal, Family and Medical Leave Applies

From time to time, everyone needs a little time off work, and in the U.S. one of the main things that assures we get the employment leave with the ability to return to work is the Family Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA). FMLA has come a long way since it was enacted in 1993, and additional modifications have been made to the labor law as recently as 2010. The FMLA law is about more than getting a sick day when you need it. It's a recognition that the need for sick leave goes beyond an employee's own personal health, and it asserts that employee rights are important in the workplace. FMLA law states that workplaces that employ 50 employees or more must grant time off to those who need it in order to assist their families. In most cases the leave granted is without sick pay, but a person's job is secured.

Parenting and Pregnancy Leave

The role of a parent is an important one, and it is important that parents are able to take a leave of absence during those times when their children need them. One of the first categories of family leave that crosses a person's mind is maternity leave. The FMLA law indicates that parents should be allowed to take up to 12 weeks off to care for a newborn within their first year of life. This work leave applies to both parents and it applies to both the parents' biological child and a child that has been adopted.

In 2010 the law was expanded and a provision was added for working mothers who are breastfeeding their infants, but have gone back to work. This provision of the employment law states that mothers need to be provided with an appropriate area, other than a bathroom, to express milk for their child.

Sick and Injured Family

Of course, the need to be cared for by family members does not end after the age of 1 year. Because of this, FMLA law dictates that personal leave be granted for various other situations as well. One of these situations is when a family member is sick or injured. In these cases, up to twelve weeks of employment leave should be granted.

The provision to take sick leave to take care of a family member with a serious health condition was added to FMLA law in June, 2000. The law includes in its definition of family member: spouses and their children, parents, adopted children and spouses of children, parents, sisters and brothers and their spouses, or any individual who is a blood relative in some way where it is considered to be the same as a family relationship.

Military Provisions

With the increase of families facing difficulties due to family members leaving for military service and readjusting after coming home, it became apparent that family leave would often be needed to help families through these transitions. For this reason, Active Duty Family Leave became part of the Family Medical Leave Act. With this amendment, a "qualifying exigency" can result in a person being granted up to 12 weeks of leave when a spouse, child, or parent is called to active duty.

Qualifying exigencies may include arranging for child care, counseling needs, financial dealings, or other legal needs. At times, there may be gray area involved in identifying what types of situations are qualifying, but it is recommended that employers err on the side of caution and grant most requests for leave. Taking care of an injured service member is also covered and the time is extended to 26 weeks.

The Little Things

While longer leaves are important, it is also is important to be there for crucial moments, especially for ones where children or elderly parents are involved. FMLA law states that a child's school functions, as well as medical and dental appointments, are cause for parents to take up to 24 hours of unpaid leave each year. The routine medical appointments of elderly relatives are also covered.

Most larger employers take the labor law seriously and give little argument when an employee needs a sick day or a longer personal leave under FMLA. When the time comes, fill out the appropriate FMLA forms in order to get the time you need.

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