Caregiving can often be uncharted waters. Add in the juggle of a day job, and it can feel downright impossible to navigate. What to do when an unpredictable, important personal situation and the need for a paycheck and professional outlet collide?
Leanna Smith at the Metropolitan Area Agency on Aging in St. Paul, Minn., says the solution usually starts by saying to your human-resources department, “I need to know I have support here.” That’s not always easy, she acknowledges, but there are some good practices to prepare to talk to the powers that be.
Read Your Company Handbook
“No one does it until they get to this point,” Smith says, laughing. Some companies offer the basics outlined by federal or state law, but others go above and beyond.
Familiarize Yourself with Legal Protections
Read up on the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Filing FMLA paperwork will ensure that you have a job to come back to after an extended leave—up to 12 weeks, either taken in small pieces or one large leave. In most states, that will protect your position—but it won’t provide income, except to residents of California, New Jersey, and Washington. Additionally, you may have protection under the Americans with Disabilities Act, which says that employers cannot treat you differently if you are caring for someone with a disability.
Sit Down with Your Employer
Come with specific information about your situation, and be prepared with solutions. Consider asking about flex time, telecommuting, job sharing, reduced hours, and other potential work-arounds. Flexibility and compromise will be key—and can hopefully help both you and your employer find a good balance.
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