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DOL issues final FMLA military caregiver, exigency leave regs

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in FMLA Guidelines,Human Resources

The U.S. Department of Labor has issued final regulations expanding the FMLA’s caregiver and military exigency leave provisions to include more employees and cover veterans. The new regs, nearly three years in the making, formalize amendments included in 2010 defense spending legislation.

For employers, they mean taking a fresh look at FMLA policies to ensure they comply. The regs went into effect in March.

Caregiver leave now covers vets

The FMLA’s military caregiver leave provisions allow eligible employees who are service members’ spouses, children, parents or next of kin to take up to 26 weeks of unpaid leave during a 12-month period to care for them.

The final regs expand the 26-week military caregiver leave provision to include covered veterans who are undergoing medical treatment, recuperation or therapy for a serious injury or illness suffered or aggravated in the line of duty, which became apparent before or after they left active service. Covered vets are those who were discharged (other than dishonorably) at any time during the five years before the first date employees take FMLA caregiver leave.

Previously, FMLA caregiver leave was only available to relatives of current service members, not veterans.

For current service members, the regs similarly expand the definition of a serious injury or illness to include pre-existing injuries or illnesses that were aggravated by active duty.

For both veterans and current service members, in addition to certifications presented by military personnel, employees may now present certifications from health care providers who aren’t associated with the military or the Department of Veterans Affairs. On the other hand, employers may require employees who submit certifications by nonmilitary providers to get second (or third) opinions, which was never allowed before.

Exigency leave eligibility grows

The FMLA grants employees the right to take up to 12 weeks of what’s called exigency leave.

It grants leave when employees’ military-connected close relatives are deployed, so employees can assist with child care and school activities, help make financial and legal arrangements, participate in counseling, visit during rest and recuperation periods and participate in military events such as deployment ceremonies.

The new regs expand exigency leave to include relatives of service members in the regular armed forces who are deployed to a foreign country. Previously, exigency leave was only available to employees whose relatives were serving in the National Guard and Reserve.

The regulations create a new category of exigency leave so employees can provide parental care. This leave applies when a service member’s parent is incapable of self-care, and the care is necessary because of the member’s active-duty service.

The regs expand the length of time employees may take for rest and recuperation leave. Now it’s 15 days, up from the previous five days.

Online resource: Read the official word from the DOL on its website.

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