Your Workplace Rights when it comes to ALS
NOTE: The following information is reprinted from the Nevada Neuroscience Foundation, Volume 4, Issue 4 October 2007.
Being a caregiver for a person with ALS can be a full time job. Yet many caregivers today already have full time jobs and are juggling multiple sets of responsibilities. Caregiving can be challenging.
This is especially true in today’s success driven society. Taking time off from work to care for a loved one or being preoccupied with personal issues while at work can take a toll on the caregiver’s career and financial situation, potentially resulting in lost wages and/or lost job opportunities.
The effects of managing two jobs are not limited to the workplace, however. Fatigue, exhaustion, depression, and other health problems are common in daily life, putting more strain on an already stressed-out caregiver.
The Family Medical Leave Act
In 1993, an important piece of legislation was signed to help caregivers balance their dual responsibilities. The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) provides eligible employees up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave each year with job and health benefits protected. Under FMLA, a caregiver for someone with MS (or ALS) can take off 1 day a week without worrying that his or her job is in jeopardy.
The FMLA carries certain restrictions, and the act might not be applicable in all cases. For example, the employee must have worked for the employer more than 12 months, and the person being cared for must be an immediate family member, specifically a spouse, child, or parent. Nevertheless, FMLA gives caregivers important rights in the workplace and enables caregivers to strike a balance between the demands at the office and the demands at home.
Taking time off from work to care for a loved one with ALS under FMLA can play an important role in helping to balance responsibilities. But not everyone is eligible for FMLA, and not all caregiver responsibilities can be met by taking time off. For these situations, other more creative solutions might prove mutually beneficial for employees and employers.
“Flextime” schedules enable people to work non-traditional hours while still working a full 40-hour week. In some companies, this may mean going to the office every day but working from 7 to 3 instead of 9 to 5. In other companies, this may mean going to the office 4 days per week and working 10 hour days.
For some caregivers, working part-time may be necessary, and some companies may be open to “job sharing” as an option, allowing two people to work part-time on different schedules to fill the responsibilities of one job. Some combination of part-time work in the office and per-hour contract work at home might be another option.
Ultimately, creating a flexible work schedule that is beneficial to both employer and employee can help ease some of the stress that caregivers face in balancing their responsibilities, as well as help employers retain dedicated, more satisfied employees.
Reprinted from “Making Strides, Perspectives on Living With MS,” Caregivers Rights