Recently, the United States Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division (DOL) released new and existing resources it compiled to help workers living with cancer, their caregivers, and cancer survivors to understand and make use of their rights under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). These resources include:
- A fact sheet on taking FMLA leave from work when the employee or family member has a serious health condition. The fact sheet explains when a mental or physical condition, such as cancer, meets the FMLA’s criteria as a serious health condition.
- An overview of workplace protections for individuals impacted by cancer. A new webpage helps workers with cancer, cancer survivors, and their families navigate federal and state worker protections and employer-provided benefits to get time off work while dealing with cancer.
- A guide for employees talking to their employers about taking time off for family and medical reasons. The new guide provides practical advice for workers to have conversations with their employers about taking time off work to care for themselves or their loved ones. It is a great resource to help workers find the words to say during potentially difficult conversations.
- Help for healthcare providers. The flier guides healthcare providers through FMLA rules concerning medical certifications. It is a handy tool that medical professionals can use to make sure patients’ and family caregivers’ employment is protected as they deal with serious health conditions.
The DOL’s resources provide a roadmap for workers that aims to lessen the strain for workers when navigating the FMLA. For instance, the DOL suggests that the employee ask the employer about available paid leave since FMLA leave is unpaid. The DOL advises that if the employee does have available sick time, vacation time, or PTO, the employer may or may not require that the employee use that leave time. The employer’s normal rules for the use of paid leave will apply.
While the DOL’s resources were not targeted to employers, they provide a wealth of information for employers to consider during the many stages of the FMLA process. Employers would be prudent to review and update related policies. In addition, providing hands-on training to front-line supervisors and managers will give them the opportunity to discuss ways in which to effectively and properly communicate with employees and work with Human Resources while doing so. A solid understanding of both the employee’s and the employer’s rights and obligations will help to foster mutual understanding and an empathetic work environment when those impacted by cancer need it most.