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Employee Leave for the Family Caregiver

Employee Leave for the Family Caregiver

<!–[CDATA[If you’re caring for an aging parent, you have a lot on your mind. You’re focused on the day-to-day care of your loved one. You’re also the primary contact and care manager for your loved one’s medical needs. You have a household to keep. You may have kids of your own. And possibly a full- or part-time job, too.
That can all add up to a busy, often stressful, day.

Sometimes, your loved one’s health requires you to take a leave of absence from your job to care for them. What happens then?

Understanding the Family Medical Leave Act

Signed into law in 1993, the Family Medical Leave Act entitles certain employees to maintain their job position and health benefits for a period of up to 12 weeks to care for immediate family members. This includes caregiving for a spouse, child, or parent with a serious health condition.

However, the law applies only to employees:

  • who have worked for the same employer for at least 1,250 hours over the past 12 months
  • at a company with 50 or more employees within 75 miles

Leave Varies by Employer

Some states have expanded these unpaid benefits to cover a wider range of employees or to secure the employee’s position and health benefits for a longer period of time. Some employers might even cover paid leave. But in states where it isn’t required, many employers don’t.

Unpaid leave can give you the time off you need, while holding your job, but it could put you in a tight spot financially.  There is hope… and help.

State Family Medical Leave

A handful of U.S. states require employers to provide paid family leave (PFL) through mandatory insurance paid for by employee-funded payroll taxes.  Those states currently include:

  • California
  • Rhode Island
  • New Jersey

Understanding State Benefits
Benefits vary, but are calculated as a percentage of an employee’s average weekly wage.

For instance, California currently has some of the most generous PFL benefits, paying 55 percent of an employee’s wages up to a weekly maximum of $1,173 for six weeks in 2017.

The requirements and pay structures for paid leave can be confusing. It’s best to talk to your human resources department or contact your state Department of Labor if you have questions.
Paid Family Leave Comes to Washington, D.C.  and New York

In January 2018, New York will join those states with paid family leave laws, and the benefits will exceed California benefits. Employees will be able to collect 50 percent of their average weekly wage for up to eight weeks. Benefits will continue to increase until the state-mandated benefits will cover 67 percent of an employee’s annual weekly wage for up to 12 weeks in January 2021.

Washington, D.C. also recently signed a bill which would give employees six weeks of taxpayer-funded benefits to care for an ill family member.

How Can You Manage to Take Employee Leave?

If you’re not fortunate enough to live in one of the states that provide PFL and your employer has no policy in place, you still have options for a short-term employee leave.

You can:

  • Use vacation and sick time, knowing the FMLA secures your job
  • Ask your employer about flex-time, so you can organize your schedule to care for your aging loved one when you’re not working
  • Negotiate a telecommuting / work-at-home arrangement so you can be there if your loved one needs you
  • Apply for veteran benefits if you’re caring for a veteran

Lobbying for Better Legislation

Unfortunately, none of the above scenarios is ideal. Many caregivers find themselves struggling financially when they have to take employee leave to care for a senior loved one. Writing to your legislators and asking them to support better PFL laws in your state may help in the long-term.

If you’re the adult child of an aging parent, it pays to plan ahead and discuss how you can survive, financially, if your parent needs long-term care.

When you need some help juggling a job and caregiving, Five Star is here. Why not plan a visit to one of our communities today?

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