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Does FMLA cover ‘Emotional care’ of spouse in ICU?

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in FMLA Guidelines,Human Resources

Q. We have an employee whose wife is in a hospital intensive care unit. The employee asked for FMLA leave. Is this an FMLA-eligible reason, even though the employee isn’t providing “care,” as the law requires? —  L.M., Kentucky

A. Yes. Eligible employees can use FMLA time “to care for an immediate family member (spouse, child or parent) with a serious health condition.” The pertinent regulations say that “caring” for a family member encompasses both physical and psychological care.

That includes situations in which, because of a serious health condition, a family member can’t care for his or her own basic medical, hygienic or nutritional needs, or is unable to transport himself or herself to the doctor, etc. It also includes providing psychological comfort and reassurance to the person receiving inpatient or home care. As such, your employee may use FMLA time to provide psychological comfort (i.e., to visit) a spouse in the ICU.

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