Family Leave For Father-In-Law

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about sick leave caring for someone:

My father-in law-has brain cancer. He is 85 and probably will live three months to a year. This question is not about medical advice but about workplace support and policies regarding sick leave. My wife has been taking much care of him with some help from her siblings. The stress is difficult and she got in a wreck recently driving her father two hours to the hospital to get an MRI (I won’t get started on a health system that makes old people commute to service..What ever happened to house calls?? Anyway, I am wondering if I go to help her with her father if this constitutes legitimate family leave which our organization does have. I probably wouldn’t be doing a lot 8 hours a day, though I would be a designated driver but probably more importantly a body of support. Any thoughts, suggestions of how to ask if it is deemed legitimate. I mean it’s more than just visiting the in laws for a trip. Thanks as always,

Signed, Wanting to Help

Dear Wanting to Help:

I have seen this viewed in various ways. My experience has been that the better the documentation attached to the request, the better the chances. Interpretation is everything in some cases! Without going too overboard with excessive pages of documentation, I would include in a Word document, the following:

1. Summary statement of your request, to include the impact of your father-in-laws illness on you, because of the impact on your wife. Those two issues are very helpful. Include an estimated length of time.This should be a brief one or two paragraph overview of your request.

2. The specific organizational policy regarding leave. If it fits your situation, that’s better, if not, see if you can provide the interpretation they might be looking for. How does it fit? Consider going to your state’s department of labor site to see if they have wording about family leave that might be helpful.

3. A numbered list of activities required by you to assist your wife as she assists her ill father. Within each, include anything that might make it more easily understood. (For example, a graphic of a map showing the route and distance, if you can insert that in the document.)It is true that not everything involves time, but it involves caregiver support. Consider looking at Caregiver support sites for some phrases that might be useful to describe what you will be doing. (Cooking, driving, getting prescriptions, taking care of the house while she rests, etc.) You don’t have to describe very much, since the idea is not to explain what you are doing, but rather to justify the leave in a general sense.

4. In closing, a repeat of the request and indicate a willingness to discuss this or to provide further information.If you have been an effective, valuable employee, emphasize that you are not anxious to be gone and will come back the moment you are able, but that this is necessary for the mental and physical health of you and your wife as you care for her father. I generally do not advise people to suggest doing any work from home, since that would be wrong of the organization to have you do, if you are in fact on leave.

5. If you can obtain any kind of supporting documentation from the physician, that would help as well. I often advise writing a draft letter for them that seems innocuous enough they can use most of the text. The essence is to establish that the father-in-law cannot function without assistance. Most physicians probably have written similar letters before since this is a recurring situation.

6. If you have a good relationship with anyone in your HR section, consider talking to them. This isn’t a secret, so even if they tell your manager, you intend to ask anyway. They might have suggestions for formatting. If they do not act encouraging, thank them for their help and continue with your plans. Let them tell you in writing, if they do not approve.7. Send all of your package through the correct chain of responsibility. Give it a few days, then follow-up, without being challenging. But, let them know time is important on this. If it is approved, write a thank you note to everyone involved, since the paperwork on these issues sometimes really is difficult.

I’m very sorry about your father-in-law. How sad for all of you! I hope your father-in-law is able to feel happy in many ways until he has won the battle–in whatever way that is.I agree with you about the traveling, for the elderly especially. We simply must do something about medical care! We have great medical care if one can get to it, afford it and maintain it when at home! Since that issue is inevitable for all of us, you would think it would be a priority.I hope you are able to provide the assistance needed by your wife during this time. Best wishes.

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina had a thirty-three year career in law enforcement, serving with the Denver Police Department from 1969-1994 and was the Presidential United States Marshal for Colorado from 1994-2002. She provides training to law enforcement organizations and private sector groups and does conference presentations related to leadership, workplace communications and customized topics. Her style is inspirational with humor.