Cardiac events and stroke are usually sudden and it can take a while to recover. You might be worried about work, but if you’re protected by the Family Medical Leave Act, you’ll have 12 weeks to recuperate without fear of losing your job.
“The FMLA has been tremendously important in helping families take care of their loved ones,” said Vicki Shabo, director of work and family programs for the National Partnership for Women and Families. “But there are big holes in the FMLA that we are working to correct. We really need patients, caregivers and physicians to join with us and help to correct the FMLA.”
If you’re a cardiac or stroke patient, it’s important to understand the FMLA and how it can help. Here’s a list of questions and answers to help you understand your rights:
- Does any cardiac or stroke event qualify for leave under the FMLA?
Yes, the FMLA covers anyone with a “serious health condition.” That means any condition or illness that causes you to be absent from work on a recurring basis or for longer than a few days for treatment or recovery.
- What if a family member is acting as my caregiver? Are they covered too?
Immediate family members acting as caregivers are covered by the FMLA and can take off 12 weeks with job security. But the FMLA doesn’t cover caregivers who are grandparents, grandchildren, siblings, in-laws or domestic partners.
- How will I know if I’m protected by the FMLA?
In addition to having a serious health condition, you must have been employed at least 12 months or worked 1,250 hours. The FMLA only covers businesses with 50 or more employees.
- How much notice do I have to give my employer if I need to take leave?
If you’re taking leave for medical treatment for yourself or to take care of a family member, you must notify your employer 30 days in advance. If you have a sudden cardiac event, stroke or other unforeseeable event, you must inform your employer as soon as possible.
The FMLA currently excludes certain family members acting as caregivers. This means grandparents, grandchildren, siblings, domestic partners and in-laws are not protected. This is a problem Shabo says they are working to fix.
Caregivers are an important part of the recovery process, but in many cases it’s financially impossible for patients and caregivers to take unpaid leave. That means they don’t take the time they need to care for themselves or a loved one.
The good news is that the FMLA is being improved so that patients and caregivers not only have job stability, but guaranteed paid leave.
The National Partnership for Women and Families released a guide to the FMLA in August.