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Pay & Leave Leave Administration

Fact Sheet: Sick Leave for Family Care or Bereavement Purposes

Sick Leave Entitlement

An employee is entitled to use sick leave to-

  • provide care for a family member who is incapacitated as a result of physical or mental illness, injury, pregnancy, or childbirth;
  • attend to a family member receiving medical, dental, or optical examination or treatment;
  • provide care for a family member who would, as determined by the health authorities having jurisdiction or a health care provider, jeopardize the health of others by that family member's presence in the community because of exposure to a communicable disease; or
  • make arrangements necessitated by the death of a family member or attend the funeral of a family member.

Sick Leave Usage Limits Per Leave Year

An employee is entitled to use up to 104 hours (13 days) of sick leave each leave year for the purposes outlined above.

Definition of Family Member

The definition of family member covers a wide range of relationships, including spouse; parents; parents-in-law; children; brothers; sisters; grandparents; grandchildren; step parents; step children; foster parents; foster children; guardianship relationships; same sex and opposite sex domestic partners; and spouses or domestic partners of the aforementioned, as applicable. The list of family members for whom an employee may request sick leave for family care or bereavement purposes (as well as important associated definitions for the terms son or daughter, parent, domestic partner, and committed relationship) may be found on our fact sheet Definitions Related to Family Member and Immediate Relative.

When an employee requests sick leave to care for a family member, the agency may require the employee to document his or her relationship with that family member. Agencies should establish consistent rules and follow the same documentation requirements for all relationships, but agencies have authority to request additional information in cases of suspected leave abuse.

Advanced Sick Leave

At the discretion of the agency, up to 104 hours (13 days) of sick leave may be advanced to an employee, when required by the exigencies of the situation, for family care or bereavement purposes. For further details, please see our fact sheet entitled Advanced Sick Leave.

Requesting Sick Leave

An employee must request sick leave within such time limits as the agency may require. To the extent possible, an employee may be required to request advanced approval for sick leave to attend to a family member who is receiving medical, dental, or optical examination or treatment, to care for a sick family member, or for bereavement purposes. If the employee complies with the agency's notification and medical evidence/certification requirements, the agency must grant sick leave.

Supporting Evidence for the Use of Sick Leave

An agency may grant sick leave only when supported by administratively acceptable evidence. For absences in excess of 3 days, or for a lesser period when determined necessary by the agency, an agency may require a medical certificate or other administratively acceptable evidence. An agency may consider an employee's self-certification as to the reason for his or her absence as administratively acceptable evidence, regardless of the duration of the absence. Employees should consult their agency-specific human resources guidance and review applicable policies set forth in collective bargaining agreements for information specific to their agency.

An employee must provide administratively acceptable evidence or medical certification within 15 days of the agency's request. If the employee is unable to provide evidence, despite the employee's diligent, good faith efforts, he or she must provide it within a reasonable period of time, but no later than 30 calendar days after the agency makes the request. If the employee fails to provide the required evidence within the specified time period, he or she is not entitled to sick leave.

Sick Leave for Exposure to Communicable Disease

An employee is entitled to use sick leave if health authorities or a health care provider determine that the employee's family member's presence in the community would jeopardize the health of others because of exposure to a communicable disease. The use of sick leave would be appropriate in these circumstances even if the family member is not sick but would be limited to circumstances where exposure alone would jeopardize the health of others and would only arise in cases of serious communicable diseases, such as communicable diseases where Federal isolation and quarantine are authorized, which currently includes: cholera, diphtheria, infectious tuberculosis, plague, smallpox, yellow fever, viral hemorrhagic fevers, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), and influenza that causes or has the potential to cause a pandemic. For more information, visit the CDC website which provides an illustrative, but not exhaustive, list of the types of serious communicable diseases where exposure alone would jeopardize the health of others.

Although the employee does not need to be the sole provider of care, the employee must be providing care actively to the family member in order to use sick leave to care for a family member exposed to a communicable disease. Since the employee would not be providing care for a sick family member, but one who is asymptomatic, the employee may request sick leave only if the exposed family member could not otherwise care for himself or herself (e.g., a minor child or elderly relative). In contrast, it would not be appropriate for the employee to use sick leave to care for an able-bodied family member who has been exposed to a communicable disease, but is not exhibiting any symptoms, since the employee would not need to provide care actively to the family member. If the employee's family member actually contracts the communicable disease and becomes ill, sick leave for general family care or sick leave to care for a family member with a serious health condition, depending on the severity of the family member's illness, would be appropriate.

School Closures

The fact that schools have closed due to an emergency health situation (e.g., pandemic influenza or other serious communicable disease) should not be the sole factor in determining the type of leave an employee may use. For example, when the school is closed and-

  • an employee's child is healthy and has not been exposed to a communicable disease, the employee may not take sick leave.
  • an employee's child has been exposed to a communicable disease but is not sick, the employee may take up to 13 days of sick leave only if it has been determined that the child's presence in the community would jeopardize the health of others because of that exposure.
  • an employee's child is sick, due to a communicable disease or otherwise, the employee may use up to 13 days of sick leave to care for that child. If the child's illness rises to the level of a serious health condition, the employee may use up to 12 weeks of sick leave and/or may invoke leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which would provide up to an additional 12 weeks of unpaid leave (with substitution of annual or sick leave, according to the appropriate regulations).

Other Available Leave Options and Work Schedule Flexibilities

Sick leave may be used only for those circumstances specified in law and regulation. The Federal Government offers a wide range of leave options and workplace flexibilities to assist an employee who needs to be away from the workplace. These flexibilities include annual leave, sick leave, advanced annual leave or advanced sick leave, leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), donated leave under the voluntary leave transfer program, leave without pay, alternative work schedules, credit hours under flexible work schedules, compensatory time off and telework. Agencies may also have a voluntary leave bank program.

Reference

  • 5 U.S.C. chapter 63, subchapter I
  • 5 CFR, part 630, subparts B and D

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