The Family & Medical Leave Act requires companies with 50 or more employees to offer up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to care for a sick parent. But even if you're not legally obligated, it's not a bad idea to offer some assistance.
CASE IN POINT
Expensive elder-care benefits are out of reach for Dillon Works! Inc., a 35-employee custom-design and fabrication company in Mukilteo (Wash.). So Dillon has instituted a "policy of compassion." On an individual basis, employees are granted paid leave to handle caregiving needs. In the last 12 months, one worker took off two weeks, with less than a day's notice, to care for her ill father. Others are granted flex time to care for their loved ones. "As a small company, we're like a family, and we can operate like one," says Leslie Wilder, the company's sales and marketing manager. "We do everything we can to keep people here."
To learn if your company is covered by the Family & Medical Leave Act, go to the Labor Dept.'s e-laws adviser program (www.dol.gov/elaws/fmla.htm). There, click on the FMLA's home page, where you can download a compliance guide. Download fact sheets about caregiver programs at www.caregiver.org, the Web site of the Family Caregiver Alliance. For tips on setting up a dependent-care program check Small Business Legal Smarts, by Deborah L. Jacobs (Bloomberg, 1998, $16.95).
Help employees find free or low-cost assistance with the Eldercare Locator, a government-sponsored database of taxpayer-supported services (800 677-1116). If an employee needs data about a specific illness, direct them to the National Alliance for Care Giving (www.caregiving.org).