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Using FMLA to Care for a Sick Family Member

Learn about using FMLA for Family members

When a family member is facing a serious illness, the best option for their care may be for a loved one to act as a family caregiver, but that often requires taking time away from work. Luckily, there is a way to extend the paid sick leave offered by many employers through the , which guarantees up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to care for a sick loved one.

Paid Sick Leave for Family Care

Employers that offer paid sick time allow employees to accrue paid time off to use in case of illness. For example, a worker might earn one hour of paid sick leave for every 40 hours worked. Typically, workers can use this time to care not only for themselves, but for parents, children, and spouses. During paid sick time, workers receive their usual rate of pay, but employers usually place a limit on the amount of paid sick leave that can be taken at a time, whether that’s three days or three weeks. Because paid sick leave is only required in seven states (Connecticut, California, Massachusetts, Oregon, Vermont, Arizona, and Washington), policies vary greatly from employer to employer.

Paid sick leave may be useful for occasionally helping a loved one such as by accompanying them to a doctor’s appointment, but it is not a solution for long-term care.

FMLA Leave for Sick Parent

The FMLA provides job-protected, unpaid leave from work for up to 12 weeks per calendar year. Employees can use this time to care for a spouse, a child, a parent, or an underage sibling in their care (but not an in-law or an adult sibling) who is facing a serious illness, so it’s possible to use FMLA to care for parent with cancer or other terminal illness. The FMLA offers peace of mind; your employer cannot fire you, reduce your pay, discipline you, or deny you a promotion for taking a leave of absence. However, it does not provide a source of income during this time away.

Not everyone is covered by the FMLA, which does not apply to employers with fewer than 50 on-site employees. You also aren’t covered by the FMLA if you have worked for your employer for less than 12 months, or if you have worked for your employer for less than an average of 24 hours per week over the course of a year.

Paid Family and Medical Leave

Some states are beginning to offer paid family and medical leave. This typically operates as an insurance program, in which workers and/or employers pay in and workers who need to provide caregiving are able to draw on the policy’s benefits for partial wage replacement. These programs are currently only offered in California, New Jersey, Rhode Island, and New York; programs typically provide 6 to 12 weeks of partially paid leave per year.

When You Need More Than Time

If you need more time off than the 12 weeks guaranteed by the FMLA, if you are not covered by the FMLA, or if an unpaid leave of absence (or even partial wage replacement) is simply too much of a financial hardship, Fifth Season Financial’s Funds for Living Program may help you make up for lost income. The Funds For Living Program allows you or a loved one with a chronic illness to receive funds from a life insurance policy based on the face value, while maintaining funds for beneficiaries to receive in the future. If Fifth Season Financial’s Funds For Living Program sounds like it can help your family during an FMLA leave, contact us today at 866-459-1271 or with the form below.

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