President Bush has indicated his intent to sign a defense spending bill that contains the first statutory amendments to the Family and Medical Leave Act since its passage in 1993. The new law will create two additional qualifying reasons for FMLA leave. Employees will be entitled to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave per year in the event that an immediate family member (spouse, parent or child) is called to active duty with the U.S. military reserves or National Guard. The new law also provides up to 26 weeks of unpaid job-protected leave for employees to provide care for family members wounded while serving in the military.
The bill does not contain an effective date, presumably meaning that it will take immediate effect upon signature by President Bush. Most likely, the Department of Labor will issue interim regulations intended to provide guidance on these new requirements. Employers should be prepared to immediately implement these new FMLA measures, including modification to written FMLA policies, and training of human resource staff and managers to assure compliance.