Posted By:

Trish Barnes on December 22, 2015

Important Changes to FMLA Regarding Military Families

Ensuring that individuals can work while still tending to family needs has been a priority of U.S. law for some time and is a major reason why the FMLA was signed into law over 20 years ago. Since its conception, there have been several changes to regulations — and preserving the rights of employees with family members who serve in the military has become a more pressing concern as of late. As a result, there have been two new benefit entitlements that employers will need to be aware of going forth.

What is the FMLA?

Short for the Family and Medical Leave Act, the FMLA was created in 1993 and made employers responsible for offering employees job-protected and unpaid leave for reasons like pregnancy, family illness and family military leave.

According to the United States Department of Labor, “The FMLA entitles eligible employees of covered employers to take unpaid, job-protected leave for specified family and medical reasons with continuation of group health insurance coverage under the same terms and conditions as if the employee had not taken leave.”

Recent Changes Regarding Military Families

The first change is qualifying exigency leave where eligible employees may be permitted to take up to 12 workweeks of FMLA leave to address issues that commonly arise when a covered military family member is deployed. Some examples include participating in military-related events, taking care of financial/legal responsibilities or arranging for childcare. When it comes to a covered family member, this can include the spouse, child or parent of an individual who is on active duty.

The second change is military caregiver leave where employers are required to give employees up to 26 weeks of leave within one year to provide care for a service member or veteran who is seriously injured or ill because of being on active duty. Again, this can include a spouse, child or parent and also next of kin, which is defined as the nearest blood relative.


The criteria for employees entitled to take military family leave includes:

  • An employee must have worked for the employer for at least 12 months
  • They must have worked over 1,250 hours in the previous 12 months
  • Their employer must have a minimum of 50 employees located within 75 miles

Keep in mind that you are allowed to ask for certification for both types of military leave — and there’s an optional DOL form, WH-384 for qualifying exigency leave and DOL form, WH-385 for military caregiver leave. For more comprehensive information and details, check out the Military Family Leave Provisions of the FMLA FAQs and revised final regulations.

Looking after the well being of military members and their families is important. As an employer, you should be aware of the two changes to the FMLA regarding military families and understand what your responsibilities are moving forward. By familiarizing yourself with these key changes, you can ensure that your business remains compliant and do your part in looking after the best interests of military families.


Photo by The U.S. Army