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The military family leave provisions of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) entitle eligible employees of covered employers to take FMLA leave for any “qualifying exigency” arising from the foreign deployment of the employee’s spouse, son, daughter, or parent with the Armed Forces, or to care for a service member with a serious injury or illness if the employee is the service member’s spouse, son, daughter, parent or next of kin.

Qualifying Exigency Leave

A covered employer must grant an eligible employee up to 12 workweeks of unpaid, job-protected leave during any 12-month period for qualifying exigencies that arise when the employee’s spouse, son, daughter, or parent is on covered active duty or has been notified of an impending call or order to covered active duty. Covered active duty means:

  • for members of the Regular Armed Forces, duty during deployment of the member with the Armed Forces to a foreign country; or
  • for members of the Reserve components of the Armed Forces (members of the National Guard and Reserves), duty during deployment of the member with the Armed Forces to a foreign country under a call or order to active duty in support of a contingency operation.

Deployment to a foreign country includes deployment to international waters. Qualifying exigencies for which an employee may take FMLA leave include making alternative child care arrangements for a child of the deployed military member, attending certain military ceremonies and briefings, or making financial or legal arrangements to address the military member’s absence. See Fact Sheet 28M(c), Qualifying Exigency Leave, for additional information about qualifying exigencies under the FMLA.

Military Caregiver Leave

A covered employer must grant an eligible employee up to a total of 26 workweeks of unpaid, job-protected leave during a “single 12-month period” to care for a covered service member with a serious injury or illness. The employee must be the spouse, son, daughter, parent, or next of kin of the covered service member. A covered service member is either:

  • a current member of the Armed Forces (including a member of the National Guard or Reserves) who is undergoing medical treatment, recuperation, or therapy, is in outpatient status, or is on the temporary disability retired list, for a serious injury or illness, or FS 28M
  • a veteran of the Armed Forces (including the National Guard or Reserves) discharged within the five year period before the family member first takes military caregiver leave to care for the veteran and who is undergoing medical treatment, recuperation, or therapy for a qualifying serious injury or illness.

A veteran who was dishonorably discharged does not meet the FMLA definition of a covered service member. For a current service member, a serious injury or illness is one that may render the service member medically unfit to perform his or her military duties. For a veteran, a serious injury or illness is one that rendered the veteran medically unfit to perform his or her military duties, or an injury or illness that qualifies the veteran for certain benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs or substantially impairs the veteran’s ability to work. For veterans, it includes injuries or illnesses that were incurred or aggravated during military service but that did not manifest until after the veteran left active duty.