More employees are entitled to time off to care for children

An employee may have a right to take time off to care for a sick child even if the employee isn’t actually the parent of the child. That’s the word from the U.S. Department of Labor, which recently decided that an employee may have such a right under the Family and Medical Leave Act.

The Act is a federal law giving employees up to 12 weeks of unpaid time off each year for personal sick leave or to care for a family member who is ill.

According to the Department, employees who have a right to take time off to care for a child include not only biological parents, but also adoptive parents, foster parents, stepparents, and anyone else who stands in the shoes of a parent by assuming “day-to-day responsibilities to care for and financially support a child.”

This could include:

  • A grandparent or one who takes in a grandchild and assumes responsibility for raising the child because the parents are unable to do so.
  • An aunt who takes over raising a child after the death of the child’s parents.
  • A same-sex partner who shares in raising an adopted child but doesn’t have a legal relationship to the child.

An employer may require that an employee show proof of a family relationship before allowing the time off, the Department says.

However, according to the Department, in most situations all an employee has to provide is “a simple statement asserting that the…family relationship exists.”