Senior Buzz

Rights of Family Caregivers in the Workplace


Rights of Family Caregivers in the Workplace

Sixty percent of family caregivers work outside the home in addition to providing care for a loved one, according to the 2010 MetLife Study of Working Caregiver and Employer Health Costs.

These two responsibilities can be difficult to manage together and sometimes conflict. Caregiving in the United States, a 2009 study by the National Alliance for Caregiving in collaboration with AARP, found that 66 percent of family caregivers have had to make some adjustments to their work life.

Many are unaware that working family caregivers have rights that are protected by the government. These workplace rights include:

Caregivers have the right to a discrimination-free workplace.

Discrimination protection laid out by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) protects against discrimination by sex, race, marital status, parenthood, disability of family members and pregnancy. Many caregiver issues find protection under these existing classifications, such as a woman who is treated differently from peers for having caregiving responsibilities, or a man whose boss will not give him leave because he feels that a man should not have caregiving responsibilities.

Caregivers have the right to take an extended leave to provide care.

The Family Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA) established that employees have a right to up to 12 weeks of unpaid extended leave over a 12-month period. Caregivers of Veterans are allowed an extended leave of 26 weeks under the Support for Injured Servicemen Act, established in 2007.

However, FMLA has many qualifications that must be met by companies, employees and the individual being cared for:

  • FMLA only applies to public agencies, including state, local and federal employers; schools; and private companies with more than 50 employees engaged in any activity affecting commerce. These 50 employees must all be employed within a 75-mile range. The employee must be caring for a spouse, child or parent with a serious health condition; for an adopted or foster child; for a new child resulting from birth; or is unable to work due to a personal or medical condition.
  • To be eligible, an employee must have held their position with a qualifying employer for more than 12 months, and he or she must have worked at least 1,250 hours over a 12-month period. The company needs to be in a U.S. location or territory or under the possession of the U.S.

There are also some caveats to FMLA, one of which is that two spouses working for the same employer can take only 12 weeks of leave combined.

Caregivers have the right to continue receiving their existing health benefits while on extended leave.

Extended leave is unpaid unless you are caring for a Veteran, but a caregiver’s employer must continue to provide any existing health benefits for all who qualify under FMLA.

Caregivers have the right to have their jobs held while they are on extended leave.

FMLA has established that, for situations that meet the Act’s requirements, employers must hold a caregiver’s position—or a comparable one with equal pay—during a caregiver’s allotted extended leave time. There are some cases where an employee is designated as “key personnel” and an employer is allowed to fill that position out of necessity.

Employees have the right to opt in to programs for caregiving services assistance.

The Community Living Assistance Services and Supports (CLASSAct established a program that enables employees to opt in to a national insurance program through a paycheck deduction. This insurance allows adults who become functionally impaired to purchase community living assistance services and support for as little as $50 to $100 a day, depending on the disability. To qualify for services, individuals must be at least 18 years old and have paid into the program for at least five years.

EEOC established a list of best practices for employers in dealing with employees who are also caregivers. This list includes management awareness training, strong enforcement of EEOC policy, flexible work scheduling options, and providing personal or sick days so an employee can use them to care for a family member. Working and providing care for a loved one can cause conflicting demands on a person’s time. It is important that family caregivers are informed about the ways the government is supporting and protecting them to help them manage these responsibilities.
About Right at Home
Founded in 1995, Right at Home offers in-home companionship and personal care and assistance to seniors and disabled adults who want to continue to live independently. Local Right at Home offices are independently owned and operated and directly employ and supervise all caregiving staff, each of whom is thoroughly screened, trained, bonded and insured prior to entering a client’s home.

Right at Home’s global office is based in Omaha, Nebraska, with franchise offices located in 40 states nationwide, the United Kingdom, Brazil and China. For more information on Right at Home, visit About Right at Home at or read the Right at Home caregiving blog at

To sign up for Right at Home’s free adult caregiving eNewsletter, Caring Right at Home, visit
About Right at Home of Greater Danbury.

The Danbury office of Right at Home is a locally owned and operated franchise office of Right at Home, Inc., serving the communities of Greater Danbury. For more information, contact Right at Home of Danbury at 203-300-5954 or by e-mail at


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