married couple combined 12 weeks?

A married couple is employed by the same employer. The wife has a serious health condition for which the husband must stay home and take care of her. Is each employee entitled to 12 weeks of FML or is it combined and the maximum for the couple is 12 weeks? I always get confused on this issue and couldn't find anything doing a search. Thanks.


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  • If both spouses are employed by the same co. you may limit the leave to a total of 12 weeks combined. However...nothing in the regulation prevents you from giving each 12 weeks.
  • You cannot restrict the leave to a total of 12 weeks when one is caring for the other. 29CFR 825.202 states that a husband and wife, both eligible, employed by the same covered emloyer may be limited to a combined total of 12 weeks only for (1) birth of the employee's child or to care for the child after birth, (2) placement of a child with the employee for adoption or foster care or to care for that child, or (3) to care for the employee's parent with a serious health condition.

    If one of your employees is caring for the other who is ill, both are eligible and you are covered as an employer, they can each take a total of 12 to address that circumstance.
  • If each is entitled to 12 weeks would they need to have two separate certification forms completed by the doctor? I'm thinking they would.
  • Literally, I suppose yes. But, it might depend. If I had already approved HER'S based on her certification from the doctor, I would require the doctor to indicate on a separate certification that the spouse's leave was essential to care for her. Otherwise, I have no assurance, really, that his absence is necessary.

    Now, if under some strange twist, I had him certified to be absent to care for her, and did not have medical certification for her particular absence, I would not require her to furnish that. The husband's certification would suffice. It certifies her as being ill and states a time period. Now, if he is to be off to care for her for, say, 3 weeks, then return to work....but she will be able to care for herself but cannot work for an additional 2 weeks, you've got a mess with your certification paperwork.

    This will be a matter of company policy and HR practice, in my opinion, as the DOL will not require you to have two in the latter case and they will not fault you for not having it if you are allowing the man's certification to stand for her's as well. Just make copies and have documentation to explain what you've done. I know there will be 'consistency naysayers' but sometimes we just have to do what makes sense.

    Do you really have a scenario where two married employees are going to be absent for 12 weeks?
  • Don: Thanks for the very helpful information. I hope they won't both be absent for 12 weeks.
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