The Family and Medical Leave Act
Under the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA), you may be entitled to a total of up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave during any 12-month period for the following purposes:
The birth and care of a child
The adoption of a child or caring for a foster child
The care of a spouse, child, or parent who has a serious health condition
A serious health condition that leaves you unable to perform the essential functions of your job
In general, you are eligible for FMLA leave if the following apply:
You work for an employer engaged in commerce, or in any industry or activity affecting commerce, that employs 50 or more employees.
You have worked for the employer for at least 12 months.
You have worked at least 1,250 hours during the 12-month period immediately preceding the start of the leave.
You work at a site where 50 or more employees employed by the employer live within 75 miles of that work site.
According to the U. S. Department of Education, 19 percent of kindergarteners through eighth grade spend unsupervised time before or after school at least once a month; other studies report that 5 million school-age children are essentially latchkey children. The American Academy of Pediatricians recommends constant adult supervision until a child is 11 or 12.
Under certain conditions, an employee may use the 12 weeks of FMLA leave intermittently. Unless it's an emergency, the employee is required to report her (or his) intention to take the FMLA leave at least 30 days before it begins.
The law then requires your employer to return you to the same job, or an “equivalent position with equivalent benefits, pay, status, and other terms and conditions of employment.” An employee who takes FMLA leave is also entitled to maintain health benefits coverage by paying the employee share of the premiums on a current basis or paying upon return to work.
In a 2005 survey of 7,700 parents who used child care options, 26 percent used private in-home care; 20 percent used home-based day care; 30 percent used a day care center or preschool; and 24 percent relied on relatives.
Check with your human resources department or your supervisor to see if you are eligible for FMLA leave. Also, ask if your company provides “dependent care reimbursement accounts.” Some companies offer this as a benefit to their employees to help defray child care expenses.