OPM extends more benefits to feds in military families

Thursday - 9/29/2011, 7:00pm EDT

Federal workers will be able to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to address issues arising from the military deployment of a spouse, child or parent starting next month.

The amendment to the Family and Medical Leave Act will help military families manage their personal affairs, said the Office of Personnel Management in regulations that will appear in Friday's Federal Register and will become effective Oct. 30.

The amendment gives federal workers the same rights as people working in the private sector. FMLA lets family of a service member who is preparing to deploy or already serving overseas use unpaid leave for the following reasons:

  • To arrange childcare or attend school meetings.

  • To receive counseling.

  • To address issues that may arise when the service member is given less than a week's notice of deployment.

  • To spend time with the service member when they are on short-term leave.

  • To attend military ceremonies or other official activities related to the deployment.

  • To prepare a will, obtain a military identity card or make other financial and legal arrangements concerning the deployment.

  • To make arrangements for the service member's return home, or address issues arising from their death in the line of duty.

Under the amendment, military families may use unpaid leave in other situations on a case-by-case basis and they may have to show proof. An agency could require evidence of a school meeting, for example. The rule permits supervisors to follow up with a phone call to the school to confirm the employee's attendance.

The Family and Medical Leave Act protects workers from losing their jobs or health benefits while on unpaid leave. It's commonly used by parents caring for a newborn child or a family member with a serious health condition.

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