The birth of a child is a qualified event for FMLA leave. The reason for the leave is twofold: The mother is recovering from childbirth, which is a qualifying medical condition. In addition, FMLA allows time to care for and bond with the newborn. Fathers may take FMLA leave also, for the purpose of bonding with the child. Since the leave does not need to be taken right away, a mother may take FMLA leave for the first twelve weeks of the infant's life, and the father may take it at any time before the child is twelve months old. Of course, the parents may both take it together if they wish (and are not employed at the same company). The benefit of the parents taking the leave one after the other is that the infant will stay home longer and start daycare at a later age.
Parents may take FMLA leave when a child joins the family through adoption. This is generally taken as soon as the child enters the home, for bonding purposes and making the transition easier for the child. The child does not have to be an infant to qualify. Leave must be taken within twelve months of placement.
Foster children qualify in the same way that adopted children do. The leave must be taken within twelve months of placement and the child does not need to be an infant.
The above situations are the family-leave part of FMLA. The medicalleave part of the Act provides time off for the employee's own recovery or that of a family member. FMLA draws the most attention from women going on maternity leave, but this is by no means the main purpose of the leave.
The term Family and Medical Leave Act may make employees think that they have to have a family event and medical issue combined in order to be eligible. Make sure that your employees know that FMLA leave is available when they or an immediate qualifying family member is seriously ill.
If you are concerned about an employee's health and know that he has a serious illness (which you will usually know only if he tells you or the symptoms are visible), you can require that he sees his physician for an evaluation and starts FMLA leave if he has a qualifying condition. If he is as ill as you perceive, the doctor will sign the certification paperwork. An employee who is seriously ill is a hazard in the workforce. His illness may be contagious or he could become injured or further aggravate his condition. Continuing to work instead of taking care of himself may result in a longer recovery period. You should have a vested interest in the health and well-being of your employees. Sometimes it is necessary to step in and encourage them to do what is best for themselves.