Q: My husband was just diagnosed with a serious illness,
possibly life threatening. I am unsure of my leave options at work. I
have been with my employer for almost nine years. Can you share what I
might be eligible for? I have never take a leave before.
A: I am sorry that your husband was diagnosed with a serious health
condition. I am sure this has created a lot of stress for both of you as
well as other family members.
You may qualify for the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). The FMLA
allows many employees to take up to 12 weeks of job-protected leave off
for a number of reasons, one being to allow an employee to care for a
spouse with a serious health condition. There are a few conditions
though. Your employer has to employ 50 or more workers. It sounds like
you have already met an additional requirement, that you have worked for
your employer for 12 months or more. Also, you must have worked at
least 1,250 hours in the last 12 months. Finally, you must work at a
location where the employer has 50 employees within 75 miles. This law
does not require that your employer pay you for any of this time off. A
helpful fact sheet on FMLA can be found at http://www.dol.gov/whd/regs/compliance/whdfs28.pdf.
You also may qualify for earned sick time assuming you are employed
in Massachusetts. As of July 1, 2015 employees in Massachusetts are
permitted to take up to 40 hours per year of sick time for a number of
reasons, one being to care for a sick spouse. If your employer has 11 or
more employees, the sick time must be paid, assuming you have earned
it. More information can be found at http://www.mass.gov/ago/docs/workplace/earned-sick-time/est-employee-notice.pdf.
Your company may also have their own internal policy on sick time,
family illness or paid time off (PTO) which may also provide some income
protection if you need to take time off. If your employer has a
handbook, it may be helpful to review the handbook or any internal
policies on time off or leaves of absence.
If you have an internal Human Resources (HR) department, they might
be a helpful resource. They may be able to work through a few different
scenarios with you. It is wise to know in advance, what options might be
available to you. There may be flex hours or telecommuting options that
could assist you during this time.
Also many employers offer Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) which
provide short-term counseling, resources and referrals for employees.
Pattie Hunt Sinacole is a human resources expert and works for First Beacon Group in Hopkinton, an HR consulting firm. She contributes weekly to Boston.com Jobs and the Boston Sunday Globe Money & Careers section.