Certainly no one wants a close family member to have to cope with a serious medical condition – but, if it does happen, you have enough to worry about — your job shouldn’t be one of those things. Having to choose between paycheck and providing care for a seriously ill family member can be a difficult situation.
Paid Family Leave (PFL) provides part of your weekly wage while caring for your loved one, secure in the knowledge that your employment position (or something similar) is waiting for you and that your health insurance will be maintained. From helping your loved one through a treatment regimen to giving them around-the-clock care, PFL benefits can help you take the time you need to do what needs to be done.
PFL for caregiver leave is a little more complex than for bonding leave, and hence we receive a lot of questions on this topic. But before we dive into our Top 3 Must See questions, let’s take a quick look at the basics of qualifying for family/caregiver leave:
While in many ways similar to caregiver leave under FMLA, the definitions of qualifying family members differ between the two (check out our handy infographic comparing both). PFL can only be taken to care for:
- Spouse/domestic partner
- Child (including step-child, child-in-laws, biological, foster, adoptive, or child under legal guardianship)
- Parent (including step-parents, in-laws, biological, foster, adoptive, or legal guardian)
Any other relationships (such as siblings, cousins, aunts/uncles) do not qualify.
In addition, the person under care must have a serious health condition, which means they are unable to work, attend school, perform regular daily activities, or are otherwise incapacitated for at least 4 consecutive days which include at least 2 doctor treatments, or 1 doctor treatment and a doctor-supervised regimen thereafter. Paid Family Leave regulations, by the way, have very specific definitions of what is recognized as a serious health condition.
Now, without further ado, let’s look at your top questions:
1. Can employees take recurring time off throughout the year to care for a seriously ill family member? For example, can they take time every Monday for this purpose?
Yes, employees can take recurring time off throughout the year. PFL benefits can be taken in daily increments in intermittent intervals, such as every Monday to, for example, take your mom to her chemotherapy sessions. You can take that day routinely under PFL without having to use up your sick time or vacation days (unless your employer’s FMLA policy requires it).
It’s important to understand that Paid Family Leave does not allow you to take leave in hourly or partial-day increments. For example, if you just need a couple hours for those chemotherapy appointments, you’d have to take the entire day from a PFL standpoint.
If a qualifying event stretches over more than 52 consecutive weeks (1 full year), a new request must be submitted before the next 52-week period begins. So, if your family member’s condition lasts longer than one year, you’ll need to make another request for PFL for the second year.
PFL Expert Tip: The benefit duration for “intermittent leave” is scheduled to increase from 56 days in 2018 to 60 days in 2019.* PFL benefits are based on the start of the caregiver leave and not the date the family member first required care. For example, if your family member were to fall seriously ill in December of this year and you started your caregiver leave under PFL in December as well, the maximum number of intermittent days would remain at 56 in 2019.
*This applies to employees working at least 5 days per week. If you work less than 5 days a week, the number of intermittent PFL days is proportionately less, e.g. if you work 3 days per week, you can take up to 24 intermittent PFL days in 2018 or 30 in 2019). Download our free guide: “ABC’s of PFL” for the full phase-in schedule of benefit durations/amounts and more details on intermittent leave.
2. To qualify for paid caregiver leave, does the employee have to actually take care of the relative? What if the family member is receiving full care in the hospital or a "Residential Health Care Facility"? Can the employee use PFL to visit the family member?
Yes, Paid Family Leave allows employees to visit family members. PFL does not require the employee to perform the actual care in order to qualify for benefits. In addition to physical care, PFL covers these other forms of care:
- Emotional support
- Arranging for change in care
- Travel to pick up medication
- Assistance in treatment
- Assistance with essential daily living matters
- Personal attendant services
So, you don’t need to take care of your family member in the direct sense. As shown above, you can provide emotional support or visit them when they are in a hospital or residential health care facility. You can also provide transportation, pick up their medication and more under PFL.
See more here: http://pfl.shelterpoint.com/blog/paid-family-leave-care-for-family-2.
3. An employee has a grandparent in a nursing home. Can that employee use PFL to take their grandparent to a routine doctor appointment?
Maybe. In this case, the grandparent being in a nursing home isn’t, on its own, sufficient reason to qualify for PFL because the grandparent can be in the nursing home, but not have a serious illness.
If the grandparent has been diagnosed with a serious illness, such as Alzheimer’s disease or other related dementias, cancer, or a disability resulting from the natural aging process (like severe arthritis), you can qualify for PFL (read more on qualifying medical conditions here). This would cover things like transportation to doctor visits (whether or not those are directly related to the diagnosed qualifying condition, i.e. a routine doctor’s visit) and other activities, like spending time with the grandparent to provide emotional support, or making a run to the pharmacy to pick up their medication.
You only have a limited time per year to provide this kind of care, so you’ll want to understand how much time you have and how you can budget that time. For an in-depth look into all the aspects of PFL and the different benefits it offers you and your family download our free guide: ABC’s of PFL.
At ShelterPoint, we understand how difficult this time can be, and we do everything we can to ensure that everything moves as smoothly as possible. If you have any questions about taking Paid Family Leave for caring for a loved one, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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