If you’re a family caregiver, you’re performing a labor of love. Often at great cost to your own health, finances or career you provide this service. But not knowing your rights makes a challenging job 10 times harder. By getting informed you’re better able to care for the one you love and yourself. Let’s discuss some of these rights.
Do you qualify for FMLA?
FMLA (Family Medical Leave Act) protects caregivers in the workplace. For those who qualify and work within a company that employs 50+ people, it allows up to 12 weeks of unpaid scheduled or unscheduled time to care for your loved one. Even though the time is not paid under the act, your employer cannot use FMLA usage to withhold pay increases, bonuses, promotions, commendations or threaten to take your job. Qualification is not automatic, and you are not protected if you don’t apply, so you should discuss with your employer to see if you qualify. Do not allow management to “brush you off” when you ask about it. They are required by law to consider your application.
What if you don’t qualify for FMLA? Do you still have rights?
If you don’t qualify for FMLA or your company is too small to provide it, then your job isn’t protected by federal law. However, if you’re an employee who makes yourself valuable, the cost to replace you can be as much as twice your annual salary. It’s in your employer’s best interest to accommodate you as much as they can. This accommodation may include allowing you to make up missed hours, changing your work schedule, permitting remote work or other solutions within their abilities. Don’t be afraid to approach your employer with the mindset of working together to find solutions, and not making demands, to get the best results. But also understand that if your organization would suffer hardship by accommodating you, you may need to make other arrangements.
Does your state offer you additional rights and resources?
While your job may be protected at a federal level, you have other rights within your
state. To locate these, simply google Caregiver rights and your state. By learning what these added rights are, you will know when you need to speak up if your rights are being violated.
Power of Attorney
A power of attorney (POA) is a legally binding document that states that a person has authorized you to make certain types of decisions as long as they are made with the best interest of the caree. These right can only be granted while your loved one can still make decisions. If your loved one can no longer make decisions, then a court order is needed. Medical professionals and financial institutions may be limited in what they can share with you if a POA is not in place, so if your loved one is agreeable, getting one is a smart decision to make for both of you.
As values, movements and societal needs change, we will likely see new rights established, so continue to stay informed about your rights to best care for yourself and your loved one.