HR Hero Line

FMLA leave for school-related activities and child care

by Elizabeth B. Bradley

It’s that time of year—summer vacations are wrapping up, and your employees’ children and grandchildren are heading back to school. Now is a good time for a Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) refresher, with a focus on the requirements for leave related to school activities and child care, for which coverage is only available when the FMLA leave is related to military leave

FMLA coverage may be broader than you think
Here’s a pop quiz: Employee A asks for time off to attend his grandchild’s parent-teacher meetings. Is the leave covered by FMLA? Employee B asks for time off to care for her grandchild, who is sick and unable to attend school. Is the leave covered by FMLA? Employee C wants time off to go to an amusement park with her son while he is home on leave from a military deployment. Is the leave covered by FMLA? The answer to all three questions is yes, if the leave is related to the employee’s spouse, child, or parent being on covered active duty or called to covered active duty status.

FMLA coverage for childbirth, adoption, and foster placement as well as coverage for serious health conditions is fairly straightforward. Often, however, employers forget the broad range of coverage for FMLA leave related to an employee’s spouse, child, or parent being on covered active duty or called to covered active duty status.

The FMLA includes a broad range of qualifying reasons for covered leave when an employee’s spouse, child, or parent is on covered active duty or called to covered active duty. Employers are required to provide FMLA leave under the following qualifying exigencies:

  • Child care and school activities. The FMLA covers leave to arrange for alternative child care, to provide child care on an urgent, immediate-need basis, to enroll in or transfer schools or day care for the child of a military member, and to attend meetings with school staff or daycare facility.
  • Rest and recuperation. The FMLA covers leave to spend time with a military member who is on short-term temporary leave during deployment.
  • Counseling. The FMLA covers leave to attend counseling related to a military member’s active duty or call to duty, or to take a spouse or child to such counseling.
  • Financial and legal arrangements. The FMLA covers leave to make or update financial or legal arrangements to address the military member’s absence and to act as the military member’s representative for the purpose of obtaining, arranging, or appealing military service benefits.
  • Short-notice deployment. The FMLA covers leave during the seven days prior to deployment to address any issue that arises with regard to the deployment when the employee’s spouse, child, or parent is notified of an impending call or order to active duty seven or fewer days before the date of deployment.
  • Military events. The FMLA covers leave to attend any official ceremony, program, or event related to the covered active duty or call to covered active duty of the military member and to attend family support or assistance programs.
  • Postdeployment activities. The FMLA covers leave to attend arrival ceremonies, reintegration briefings, and other official ceremonies during the 90 days following the end of deployment, as well as any issues arising from the death of the military member.
  • Parental care. The FMLA covers leave for the care of a dependent parent of a military member, including arranging alternative care for the parent, providing care on an urgent, immediate-need basis, admitting or transferring the parent to care facilities, and attending meetings with the staff of the care facility.

Bottom line
Employers should carefully inquire about the underlying basis for FMLA leave requests. When an employee is requesting leave due to her spouse, child or parent being on or called to covered active duty status, FMLA leave may be used for a broad range of reasons that are not thought of as traditional reasons for FMLA leave.

Elizabeth B. Bradley is a shareholder with Fortney & Scott, LLC, in Washington, D.C. You can reach her at ebradley@fortneyscott.com.