Family and Medical Leave Act to include more military-related absences
RAF MILDENHALL, England — Federal employees with deployed military family members can now take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave a year to deal with a variety of contingencies that can arise during a deployment, according to new rules announced this week by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.
The announcement marks a significant change to the Family and Medical Leave Act, allowing federal employees with deployed active-duty spouses, children or parents to take unpaid time off to attend to short-notice deployments, military events, child-care and school issues, financial and legal arrangements, counseling and post-deployment duties, according to an Army memo released this week.
This new policy also allows an employee to take unpaid time off to spend time with a family member who is on rest and recuperation time during a deployment. Other activities can be covered but must be agreed upon by the employer and employee.
Such changes also affect federal non-appropriated fund employees.
The FMLA changes announced this week build upon legislation passed a few years ago. The original 12-week provision only covered family members of reserve components, according to Kelly Hruska, deputy director of government relations for the National Military Family Association.
“These were more administrative tweaks to take care of the problems,” Hruska said. “I really applaud Congress for acting so quickly in getting it done.”
In addition, the 26 weeks of unpaid leave entitlement that a federal employee can use to take care of a family member undergoing medical treatment for a serious injury was expanded.
Now, some conditions that existed before military service but that were exacerbated by that service are covered. Also covered are veterans undergoing medical treatment who were in the military during the past five years, including those in the National Guard and reserves.
Hruska said those changes help address a troop’s transition from active duty to veteran status.
“We were quite pleased when they announced the final regulations,” she said.
An employee can always substitute annual leave for unpaid leave under FMLA, and sick leave can be used under certain circumstances.
The law change came as part of the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal 2010, according to the Army memo announcing the changes.