Caregivers and FMLA Leave


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_0

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.

SOURCES: 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

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