If you're one of the millions of working Americans helping to care for a sick, disabled or elderly family member, it's essential to know what your rights and benefits are. Most people are familiar with the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). However, many think it applies only to parents who need or want to take time off to care for a new baby.
In fact, the FMLA can be used to care for a spouse, parent or older child. However, it doesn't cover many other close family members. According to a report from AARP and the National Alliance for Caregiving, over a third of family caregiving situations aren't covered by the FMLA.
California Paid Family Leave (PFL) expands the range of family members to grandparents, grandchildren, parents-in-law and siblings. You may also be able to qualify to continue being paid a portion of your regular salary during at least some of your time off.
Many leading companies are also helping employees who need to take some time off to help care for a family member. However, very few people who work in the private sector have employer-provided coverage for family leave beyond what's provided for new parents.
Some members of Congress are working to expand the benefits offered by the FMLA as our population ages. It's estimated that in five years, a quarter of people in the workforce will be at least 55. That means that more people will be caring for elderly parents as well as spouses, and in some cases, grandchildren and adult children.
If you need to take time off of work to care for a family member, it's essential to know what your rights are and what benefits you're entitled to under the FMLA as well as the California Family Rights Act. If you believe you aren't getting the time off and/or pay to which you're entitled, it may be wise to seek legal guidance.