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Families of veterans, service members get new FMLA rights

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in FMLA Guidelines,Human Resources

You wouldn’t think a Pentagon budget bill would affect HR, but the 2010 Department of Defense appropriations law does—by expanding the military family leave amendments to the FMLA that were enacted last year.

That legislation provided two new kinds of leave for employees with close relatives serving on active duty in the armed forces:

Exigency leave: The 2008 amendments granted up to 12 weeks of leave for employees to tend to urgent needs occasioned by the call to active duty of a loved one serving in the National Guard or military reserves.

The new law grants exigency leave rights to close family members of all active-duty military personnel.

Caregiver leave: The 2008 amendments granted up to 26 weeks of unpaid leave to employees who need to help care for a family member who is injured or becomes ill while on active duty.

The new law extends caregiver leave rights to family members of veterans being treated for, recuperating from or receiving therapy for any serious injuries or illnesses that occurred within the preceding five years.

This is a significant expansion of family leave rights. First, it covers family members of veterans—a much larger group than those currently on active duty. Second, employees may now take leave to help their loved ones deal with pre-existing conditions aggravated by active-duty service, not just those caused by military service.

Advice: Review your FMLA policies to ensure they comply with the new law. It’s probably also a good idea to tally up how many employees might be covered by these provisions. It’s no longer enough to know who has close relatives serving on active duty. Know how many have close relatives who are recent veterans.

As always, consult a qualified attorney if you have questions about the new law.

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