Thanks to the National Defense Authorization Act of 2010, employees of military servicemen and women now have more entitlements under the federal Family Medical Leave Act.
In late January, the U.S Department of Labor amended the FMLA to comply with the NDAA. The changes weren’t unexpected and actually work to the advantage of employees.
That’s because they change how eligibility is assessed for employees who need to take leave to care for a family member who serves or has served in the military.
Hitherto, employees could only take FMLA leave to care for a family member who had been injured or become ill while serving in the military. The family member who needed care had to be a current member of the armed forces and had a condition that resulted from military service.
Under the new provisions, FMLA leave can be taken up to five years after the employee’s family member leaves military service. Additionally, leave can be taken for an illness or injury that occurred prior to the individual joining the armed forces, but was exacerbated by military service.
For example, if a man injured his knee playing high school football and his military service made the injury worse, causing him to require surgery two years after discharge, his wife would be eligible for FMLA leave to care for him while he recovered from the operation.
The same entitlement of 12 weeks of FMLA leave applies in these cases.
The NDAA also expands exigency leave to cover family members of regular servicemen and women. Prior to, only employees with a family member called to active duty service in the National Guard or Reserve could take exigency leave.
Exigency leave is granted to employees whose family member is called to active duty service so they can attend to issues related to the service member’s deployment. Legal and financial matters, education, child care and a broad range of other matters are included. The change means family members of all service men and women can take exigency leave, as long as they’re being deployed to a foreign country.
The change also increased the number of days “Rest and Recuperation” FMLA leave an employee can take from 5 to 15 days. And, a new category was created that allows an employee to take FMLA leave to care for a service member’s parent who is incapable of self-care. So, if a woman’s husband was deployed to active duty military service overseas, she could take FMLA leave to care for his ailing mother or father.
These new rules officially take effect on March 8, 2013. Find more information about the changes and see a side-by-side comparison of the new rules with the prior version, frequently asked questions and a fact sheet, on the DOL’s website.