This Labor Day, let’s applaud those Americans who have put their jobs and lives on hold to serve as caregivers to family members in need. The often thankless job of caregiving is a true labor of love on the part of a son, daughter, spouse, or close relative. A recent study by AARP found that over 40 million Americans serve as caregivers to their adult family members with severe illness or disability; often on top of holding down full-time jobs. At times, this can be like burning the candle at both ends. Caregivers need to find a way to balance the job of caregiving with their work obligations in a sustainable, healthy way.
A growing aging population indicates that this work-life predicament will not soon fade away. More likely, family caregiving inside the home will become more widespread as families look to cut medical costs. These tireless Americans face a unique set of challenges that need to recognized and addressed by employers and public policy. One of the most prevalent difficulties among caregivers is burnout, a condition that is sometimes easily remedied by taking some time off, reassessing and coming back better prepared to handle the challenges of work and home.
The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) allows employees to take up to 12 weeks of job-protected and health-insured unpaid leave in order to tend to their relatives’ illness or injury. FMLA was established to provide an opportunity for work-life balance, but many employees find themselves shouldering more of the burden and anxiety of taking time off as unemployment rates continue to rise. Family caregivers need to be aware of their rights under Family Medical Leave; rights which grant them the time to regroup and take time for self-care.
Since 2008, an amendment to FMLA includes certain military family leave entitlements, whereby family members of servicemembers who have incurred serious illness or injury in the line of duty are entitled to take up to twice the amount of leave as a caregiver of a non-servicemember. These federal protections respect the challenges faced by family caregivers and cannot be blithely ignored by employers. Taking leave under FMLA is a serious consideration, one that employees do not commit to lightly and should not be penalized for taking advantage of. To terminate an employee for reasons of family medical leave or not grant them sufficient time to address their situation, either intermittently or in one continuous period, constitutes a violation of the Family Medical Leave Act.
These legal rights are meant as a protection and a thanks. This Labor Day, employees should take respite in the knowledge that their government and family members thank them for their ceaseless work as caregivers.
About the Author: Jeff Davis is the Owner of the Davis law firm and a highly experienced San Antonio employment law attorney. To find out more information about a San Antonio employment lawyer, please visit www.jeffdavislawfirm.com.