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Taking Care of Mom and Dad: Taking Time Off from Work

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) of 1993 requires covered employers to provide up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave to "eligible" employees for certain family and medical reasons. Employees are eligible if they have worked for a covered employer for at least one year, and for 1,250 hours over the previous 12 months, and if the employer has at least 50 employees within a 75 mile area.

The FMLA is an important benefits law for anyone who has parents in hospice care. Since family members play an important role in providing hospice care, adult children may need to use FMLA leave at some point during their parents' final days.

Unpaid leave must be granted to care for an employee's parent who has a serious health condition. At the employee's or employer's option, certain kinds of paid leave may be substituted for unpaid leave.

The employee may be required to provide advance notice and medical certification. The employee ordinarily must provide 30 days advance notice when the leave is foreseeable. Leave may be denied if these requirements are not met.

Check with your employer to find out how it enforces the various application requirements; some are more demanding than others. Most require some form of documentation or medical certification to approve a request for leave related to your parent's health condition.

During FMLA leave, the employer must maintain your health coverage under any group health plan it offers. Upon return from FMLA leave, you must be restored to your original or an equivalent position -- with equivalent pay, benefits and other employment terms.

The use of FMLA leave cannot result in the loss of any employment benefit that accrued prior to the start of your leave. FMLA also makes it unlawful for an employer to interfere with, restrain or deny the exercise of rights provided under FMLA and to discharge or discriminate against any person for opposing any practice made unlawful by FMLA or for involvement in any proceeding under or relating to FMLA.

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