Most employers are well aware of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) provisions which entitle qualifying employees to twelve weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave each year for certain events such as: the birth or adoption of a child; care for an immediate family member with a serious health condition; or the employee’s own serious health condition.  In 2013, the FMLA celebrates its 20th anniversary by broadening its scope.

Generally, a child is considered by most to be under 18 years of age.  However, an employee may now be entitled to leave to care for a child who is over 18 years of age,  pursuant to a January 14, 2013 interpretation letter.  Now, an employee is entitled to FMLA leave to care for an adult child (18 years of age or older) if such child:  (1) has a disability as defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act; (2) is incapable of self-care due to that disability; (3) has a serious health condition; and (4) is in need of care due to the serious health condition.

Additionally, on February 6, 2013, the Department of Labor announced a Final Rule (Department of Labor Fact Sheet available here) which provides additional FMLA benefits for military personnel and their families, including: availability of FMLA leave to family members of members of the Regular Armed Forces for qualifying exigencies arising out of the service member’s deployment; extends FMLA military caregiver leave for family members of current service members to include an injury or illness that existed prior to service and was aggravated in the line of duty on active duty; and extends FMLA military caregiver leave to family members of certain veterans with serious injuries or illnesses.  This means that qualifying employees can attend a spouse’s farewell or welcome home ceremony without being penalized.  Employees can also spend time with family members on leave from active duty service without concern for their jobs.  This Final Rule will become effective March 8, 2013.

Under the Final Rule, airline flight crew employees, with their unique work schedules, will also have greater access to the benefits of the FMLA and a special method of calculating leave.

As a result of these expansions, employers are advised to consult with counsel and review their written policies so as to ensure compliance with the FMLA.  Moreover, employers must update their certification forms and their required FMLA poster on or before March 8, 2013.  This updated poster is available here [pdf].