Family Leave Options

Anita,

My dad who lives in Florida just had a massive stroke. I need to help my parents arrange for long-term healthcare and sell their house to pay for it. Is there a way I can assist them temporarily without quitting my job in California and moving across the country?

Dear, Worried Daughter,

I’m sorry your family is going through this difficult time.

The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) was enacted to assist in situations such as yours. The FMLA allows eligible employees at companies with 50 employees or more to take unpaid leave for certain family and medical reasons without losing their jobs or health coverage. Covered employees who have worked at least one year and have accumulated 1,250 hours within that year are entitled to 12 workweeks of leave in a 12-month period for:

  • a serious health condition that makes the employee unable to perform the essential functions of his or her job;
  • to care for the employee’s spouse, child, or parent who has a serious health condition;
  • the birth of a child and to care for the newborn child within one year of birth;
  • the placement with the employee of a child for adoption or foster care and to care for the newly placed child within one year of placement;
  • any qualifying exigency arising out of the fact that the employee’s spouse, son, daughter, or parent is a covered military member on “covered active duty” (military caregiver leave allows servicemembers themselves 26 workweeks of leave)

California also has a similar California Family Rights Act. The CFRA would run concurrently with the FMLA, but there are some differences (for instance, pregnancy is not covered as a serious health condition by CFRA, but is under FMLA). View the California Department of Human Resources’ chart for a comparison.

Your employer may require you to use any paid time off (PTO) before taking FMLA leave. And just like the requirement to get out of gym class back in school, you’ll need the customary doctor’s note to be excused from work under FMLA.

Note also that if you make a contribution toward your group health insurance premiums that is normally deducted from your paycheck, you will have to pay for this out of pocket while on leave. In fact, if you don’t have an emergency fund, 12 weeks of unpaid leave may not be feasible. Unemployment is generally not an option, as you voluntarily went on unpaid leave and you must be available to work to qualify. (Tip: Some utilities such as cable providers may allow a “seasonal hold” while you are away from home, which can be less costly than turning off and then having to pay to reconnect when you return from your leave. Mortgage lenders and landlords may or may not be as willing to defer payments.) If your parents are financially able, they may be able to compensate you for your caregiving time with a personal care agreement. For elderly parents with few assets other than their home, Medicaid’s Cash and Counseling program (available in about 30 states) may help them pay for home health care services – including cleaning, meal preparation, or transportation – from whomever they choose.

Four states have approved paid family leave programs – California, New Jersey, Rhode Island, and Washington (whose program has been deferred due to budget shortfalls). If you are eligible, you may receive a percentage of your base wages for a period of time. Here’s a handy chart showing eligibility and coverage by state.

Readers: When and how has the Family Medical Leave Act benefitted you?

RELATED POSTS:

In Case of Family Emergencies
A (Practically) Perfect Parental Leave Policy

5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Avery Grey
    Nov 17, 2015 @ 16:54:49

    My husband was diagnosed with cancer a few weeks ago and he will be starting his medical leave of absence this week. His boss wasn’t too thrilled about him having to miss so much work and gave him the impression that he won’t have a job when he gets back. A friend of ours told us to look into an employment lawyer if we needed to for when he can go back to work. This information will be helpful to us if that problem arises. Thanks for sharing.

    Reply

  2. Julieta A. Lisbo
    Nov 01, 2015 @ 10:17:07

    Dear Worried Daughter,
    Don’t leave your work. Try to find a good caregiver to take care of your dad. You ask her resume to find out his/her experiences and performance from other facilities.
    Good luck.

    Reply

  3. candis cheshire
    Oct 27, 2015 @ 12:54:39

    She can see her union rep if she is in the union. Because she has the right to take time off to help her mother.

    Reply

  4. Bryan Keith Earley
    Oct 27, 2015 @ 09:27:31

    well i believe that her parents would move to california if something happened to her believe me when your parents are gone and you don’t spend quality time than you will suffer tell her to find work in florida and love her father before it is to late time is eo short and death is right around the corner so tell her to get home and help her mother to take care of her father may the Lord be with them God bless

    Reply

  5. Moonstone Mary
    Oct 27, 2015 @ 09:07:23

    Also, check with the county to see what they recommend for long term care. I know there are many nurses who do home visits on the side to supplement their incomes. And certainly a good realtor could handle the house sale.

    Maybe your employer would let you do remote work while you are there setting things up too. A good employer understands the value of a long term good employee.

    Reply

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Disclaimer

Anita Clew's blog posts are intended for general guidance and should never be taken as legal advice. In all instances where harassment, inequity, or unfair treatment is believed to be present, please consult your HR Department or legal representation.
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