FMLA for IBD Caregivers

B.S. Dietetics, Dietitian, Health Professional

Inflammatory Bowel Disease can often mean missed days of work or even the need for temporary disability.  In a previous post we talked about IBD and Disability but that kind of time off only applies to the patient themselves.  Often times caregivers can miss just as much work as the patient.

So, what do you do if you are caring for a child, spouse or parent with IBD?  Thankfully the government realized that protection needs to be put in place for caregivers and in 1993 they established the Family Medical Leave Act or FMLA.  FMLA protects the caregiver's job, if they are an eligible employee, for 12 work weeks of unpaid leave for specific health conditions and up to 26 work weeks to care for a military servicemember who has a serious injury or health condition.

How it works

You are required to notify your employer if you intend to take time under FMLA.  Most employers will have their own set of FMLA forms for their organization.  If you think you will need this type of leave the Human Resources Department should be able to direct you to the appropriate forms.  It is wise to get this type of paperwork turned in as soon as possible so that your employer knows what to expect.  Be sure to keep a copy of the forms on file for your own records.

It is also important to note that the physician caring for your spouse, child or parent's IBD will also have to sign paperwork certifying that it is a serious health condition in need of your care.  That means, if your spouse is in remission of symptoms and you just want to take a break to hang out or recuperate yourself - you would not be eligible for FMLA.

In some instances employers have not allowed FMLA or not instituted it appropriately.  If you find that to be the case, you can file a complaint with The U.S. Department of Labor's Wage and Hour Division (WHD).

Hopefully your loved one will never be sick enough to require you to need FMLA but it's important to know your rights should that situation change.

_Jennifer has a bachelor's degree in dietetics as well as graduate work in public health and nutrition.  She has worked with families dealing with digestive disease, asthma and food allergies for the past 12 years.  Jennifer also serves the Board of Directors for Pediatric Adolescent Gastroesophageal Reflux Association (PAGER). _

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