Grandmother cradling grandchild during HI FLA

On September 15, 2020, Hawaii Governor David Ige signed into law a bill that extends Hawaii family leave to include care of an employee’s grandchild with a serious health condition. Although just enacted, the law has an effective date of July 1, 2020.

Hawaii’s Family Leave Act

The legislative bill cited statistics regarding the large number of children under age eighteen who are living with their grandparents, noting that grandparents are often the primary caretakers for their grandchildren. Accordingly, the Hawaii legislature enacted this bill in order to extend family leave to all employees when needed to provide care for their grandchildren with a serious health condition. There is no requirement in the law, however, that the employee be the primary caretaker for the grandchild in order to be eligible for Hawaii family leave.

Hawaii’s Family Leave Act applies to employers with 100 or more employees and offers up to four weeks of unpaid leave during any 12-month period for the birth or adoption of a child, or to care for the employee’s child, spouse, reciprocal beneficiary, sibling, or parent with a serious health condition. The new amendment adds grandchild to the list of family members for whom an eligible employee may take job-protected leave to provide care.

Notably, this amendment reflects a growing trend where states are recognizing that family caregiving often extends to relationships outside the traditional parent-child nucleus. The result is that many state job-protected family leave laws offer much broader coverage than the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) which only permits family leave for an employee to care for his or her child, parent, or spouse. Consequently, FMLA leave and state family leave may not run concurrently in situations where an employee needs to care for a family member covered under a state family leave law but not covered under the FMLA.

Sibling Defined Under Hawaii Family Leave Act

The amendment also clarified who is deemed a “sibling” for family leave purposes. “Sibling” is defined as an individual who is a biological, adopted, or foster brother or sister; or a stepbrother or stepsister of an employee.

What Employers Should Do

Hawaii employers that are subject to the Hawaii Family Leave Act should act immediately to update their leave policies and practices to permit use of family leave to care for a grandchild with a serious health condition. Managers and supervisors should be informed of this additional covered family relationship as well as the definition of “sibling” to ensure proper administration of this leave for eligible employees.

What ReedGroup Is Doing

ReedGroup will add “grandchild” as a covered family relationship under its Hawaii Family Leave Act plan. We will also update any applicable guidance documents to reflect that addition as well as the definition of sibling.

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Information provided on this blog is intended for general educational use. It is not intended to provide legal advice. ReedGroup does not provide legal services. Consult an attorney for legal advice on this or any other topic.