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The role of family caregiver can be demanding. Some days might not seem to have enough hours to get everything done. Other days you’ll manage things fairly easily. If you have a job outside the home, caregiving duties might require you to take more time off than normal.
That’s where the Family and Medical Leave Act, known as FMLA, may come in handy. Signed into law in 1993, the Department of Labor has oversight for enforcing the protections of this act. It applies to public and private sector employees.
There are a few provisions of the law caregivers should be aware of, including:
While many people associate this act with maternity leave, it can be beneficial to working family caregivers, too. Here’s a quick overview of the rights and protections FMLA affords caregivers.
FMLA and the Family Caregiver
For employees who qualify, FMLA allows up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected time off each year. In order to apply for the Family and Medical Leave Act benefits, a caregiver must be taking care of an immediate family member who has a serious medical condition.
If you meet the FMLA criteria, here’s what you will be entitled to:
1. Time off to care for your senior loved one
Family caregivers can take up to 12 weeks off in a given year to care for an immediate family member with a serious health condition. Unfortunately, in-laws are not considered immediate family.
It’s important to know, however, that the time you take off under FMLA is unpaid.
One of the most beneficial provisions under FMLA is that you aren’t required to use all your time off at once. Employees have the option to take individual days or weeks off or work shorter shifts. This can be especially helpful when you are trying to stretch out the benefit over a long period of time.
3. Protection of your personal health insurance
If you have to take a month or two off work, you might worry you will lose your healthcare insurance. That’s another way FMLA protects caregivers. Your health insurance, including any family members on your plan, will be protected.
Unless you fail to pay your premium, your health insurance will continue. When you aren’t receiving your normal paycheck, that can be a big relief.
4. Job safety
When a loved one is seriously ill, the last thing you should have to worry about is losing your job. Under the Family and Medical Leave Act, an employer is required to give your position (or one with the same level of responsibility) back when you return to work.
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