The University Record, August 16, 1993

New law allows up to 12 weeks of unpaid family medical leave

The new Family and Medical Leave Act (FLMA) allows employees to take unpaid leaves, with job protection, for the birth, adoption or foster care placement of a child; their own serious illness; or the serious illness of a family member.

The law took effect Aug. 5 for faculty and all regular staff except those represented by a union. The law takes effect for unionized staff on the date of contract renewal or by Feb. 5, 1994, whichever is earlier.

“The University already is way ahead of the game insofar as its generous child care leaves and provisions for short-term and extended sick time,” according to Leslie de Pietro, Family Care Resources Program coordinator and head of the task force that made recommendations on how to implement the FMLA. “However, the new law requires that we permit leaves for staff who need to care for seriously ill family members. We now have no choice. We must grant them.”

Under the new policy, a staff or faculty member may take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave (called family medical leave) for the serious illness of a family member. Employees can still receive paid time off by using up to three days of sick time for family care or any accrued vacation time, which would not be counted toward the 12 weeks.

The fact that this type of leave may be used intermittently will be a godsend for someone who needs to take a family member to chemotherapy appointments, de Pietro said. Hopefully employees will be able to work with supervisors and co-workers to develop a plan for coverage during the times the employee is away. The law requires that employees give advanced notice of absences when practical.

Philip A. Smith, manager of employment and staff planning for the Schools, Colleges, Institutes and Libraries Personnel Center, said, “Managers may anticipate that staff will be lining up at the door to take advantage of this new policy. I don’t really think that will be the case, given the fact that it is unpaid leave. Dealing with intermittent leaves is similar to how we now manage short-term sick time or requests for intermittent vacation time. The only real difference is that we must now grant an employee time off if there is a legitimate, serious family illness.”

If faculty or staff members wish to take an unpaid leave under the FMLA for child care, personal medical or family medical reasons, the first step is to contact their supervisor or department chair. Supervisors must verify that the reasons for the leave are appropriate and may ask for a physician’s statement to verify the seriousness of the illness. Staff members need to contact the Benefits Office to establish whether they are eligible to receive up to 12 weeks of health insurance coverage, which is available to those who currently have coverage and have worked for the University for at least 12 months prior to the start of leave.

For information about the new policies, contact an employment representative or the Family Care Resources Office, 998-6133. Management training sessions about the FMLA will be offered in late September and October.