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Pay & Leave Leave Administration

Fact Sheet: Sick Leave to Care for a Family Member with a Serious Health Condition

Sick Leave Entitlement

An employee is entitled to use up to 12 weeks (480 hours) of sick leave each leave year to provide care for a family member with a serious health condition.

Sick Leave Usage Limits Per Leave Year

An employee is entitled to a total of 12 weeks (480 hours) of sick leave each leave year to care for a family member with a serious health condition, which includes 13 days (104 hours) of sick leave for general family care or bereavement purposes. If the employee previously has used any portion of the 13 days of sick leave for general family care or bereavement purposes in a leave year, that amount must be subtracted from the 12-week entitlement. If an employee has already used 12 weeks of sick leave to care for a family member with a serious health condition, he or she cannot use an additional 13 days in the same leave year for general family care purposes. An employee is entitled to no more than a combined total of 12 weeks of sick leave each leave year for all family care purposes.

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 or for bereavement purposes related to the death of 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.

Serious Health Condition

The term serious health condition has the same meaning as used in OPM's regulations for administering the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA). That definition includes such conditions as cancer, heart attacks, strokes, severe injuries, Alzheimer's disease, pregnancy, and childbirth. The term serious health condition is not intended to cover short-term conditions for which treatment and recovery are very brief. The common cold, influenza, earaches, upset stomach, headaches (other than migraines), routine dental or orthodontia problems, etc., are not serious health conditions unless complications arise. For example, for most individuals who contracted H1N1, this influenza did not rise to the level of a serious health condition. The agency may require medical certification of a serious health condition.

Advanced Sick Leave

At the discretion of the agency, up to 240 hours (30 days) of sick leave may be advanced to an employee, when required by the exigencies of the situation, to provide care for a family member with a serious health condition. 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 care for a family member with a serious health condition. 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.

Additional Medical Certification for Care of a Family Member with a Serious Health Condition

Care of a family member includes psychological comfort and/or physical care, including being with the family member during a hospital stay or while being examined in a doctor's office. Agencies may require an employee to provide a written statement from a health care provider certifying that:

  1. the family member requires psychological comfort and/or physical care;
  2. the family member would benefit from the employee's care or presence; and
  3. the employee is needed to care for the family member for a specified period of time.

Pregnancy/Childbirth

According to the definition of serious health condition, any period of incapacity due to pregnancy or childbirth, or for prenatal care, is considered a serious health condition, even if the family member does not receive active treatment from a health care provider during the period of incapacity or the period of incapacity does not last more than 3 consecutive calendar days. Therefore an employee is entitled to use sick leave to care for a family member who is incapacitated because of a pregnancy, or to accompany the family member to prenatal care appointments. An employee caring for a family member following childbirth is entitled to use sick leave for the period of the birth mother's incapacitation. There is no provision in law or regulation that permits the use of sick leave to care for a healthy newborn, bond with a healthy child, or for other child care responsibilities. Please see our fact sheet entitled Leave and Work Scheduling Flexibilities Available For Childbirth for more information.

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.

References

  • 5 U.S.C. 6307
  • 5 CFR part 630, subparts B and D
  • 5 CFR 630.1202

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