Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Vivamus convallis sem tellus, vitae egestas felis vestibule ut.

Error message details.

Reuse Permissions

Request permission to republish or redistribute SHRM content and materials.

Who is a covered family member under the FMLA?

Covered family members under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) are the employee's spouse, son, daughter or parent as defined in the FMLA regulations.

Under the FMLA, a "spouse" means a husband or wife, including those in same-sex marriages, which were made legal in all 50 United States as of June 26, 2015.

"Son or daughter" means a biological, adopted or foster child; a stepchild; a legal ward; or a child of a person standing in loco parentis who is either under age 18 or age 18 or older and "incapable of self-care because of a mental or physical disability." Information on FMLA leave to care for an adult child can be found in a separate SHRM HR Q&A.

The FMLA defines the term "parent" as "a biological, adoptive, step or foster father or mother, or any other individual who stood in loco parentis to the employee when he or she was a minor."

Family members not covered by the federal FMLA include siblings, in-laws, grandparents and other extended family members unless those individuals stood "in loco parentis" to the employee when he or she was a minor. Nonfamily members can also be considered to have stood in loco parentis, which is defined as having had the responsibility of providing day-to-day care to the employee and of financially supporting the employee in his or her childhood.

The FMLA also allows employees to take leave to care for a covered service member or veteran with a serious injury or illness if the employee is the spouse, son, daughter, parent or next of kin of the service member or veteran. "Next of kin" means the nearest blood relative other than the covered service member's spouse, parent, son or daughter in the following order of priority: blood relatives who have been granted legal custody of the covered service member by court decree or statutory provisions, brothers and sisters, grandparents, aunts and uncles, and first cousins unless the covered service member has specifically designated in writing another blood relative as his or her nearest blood relative for purposes of military caregiver leave under the FMLA. FMLA regulation §825.122 provides additional information on this topic.

Some states offer more-generous coverage and broader definitions of family members under state family leave laws; state family leave often runs concurrently with FMLA leave. Some states include siblings, grandparents, domestic partners and others in the definition of family member for the purposes of family medical leave. Employers are advised to review their states' family leave laws for compliance.


​An organization run by AI is not a futuristic concept. Such technology is already a part of many workplaces and will continue to shape the labor market and HR. Here's how employers and employees can successfully manage generative AI and other AI-powered systems.