Family and Medical Leave

In August 1993, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) became federal law in the US. FMLA protects job security of workers in large companies who must take a leave of absence to care for a seriously ill child, to take medical leave because the employee is unable to work because of his or her own medical condition, or for the birth or placement of a child for adoption or foster care. The Family and Medical Leave Act:

• Applies to employers with 50 or more employees within a 75-mile radius.

• Provides twelve weeks of unpaid leave during any twelve-month period to care for seriously ill self, spouse, child, or parent. In certain instances, the employee may take intermittent leave, such as reducing his or her normal work schedules hours.

• Requires employer to continue to provide benefits, including health insurance, during the leave period.

• Requires employer to return employee to the same or equivalent position upon return from the leave. Some benefits, such as seniority, need not accrue during periods of unpaid FMLA leave.

• Requires employee to give 30-day notice of the need to take FMLA leave when the need is foreseeable.

• Is enforced by complaints to the Wage and Hour Division, US Department of Labor, or by private lawsuit. The nearest office of the Wage and Hour Division may be located by looking in the US Government pages of your telephone directory.

I have never used FMLA. Yes, our bills got bigger than they would have if I had continued to work, but the hospital billing rep has always made sure none of those bills went to collection. The doctor's group, on the other hand, has sent our bills to collection, and it takes a long time to straighten things out with the insurance company.

The regular bills, utility, mortgage, car, etc. get first priority. I do some of our grocery shopping at the cheap cash-n-carry store, which really eases the budget. We go out very seldom, and we still use support from family and friends for incidental baby-sitting. I hire a person to come to my home when I work. My son's care/baby-sitting is paid for by the state Home Services program and I supplement her for my daughter's care.

In Canada, a parent may be entitled to benefits under the Employment Insurance Act. Consideration is provided in the act for a parent having to leave work to care for an ill child. Entitlement to benefits is made on a case-by-case basis. Should a parent qualify, benefits are determined by the number of hours the parent has worked prior to making the claim. For further information, parents should contact the nearest Human Resources Development Canada office listed in the Government of Canada pages of the telephone directory.

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