Are you allowed to take family medical leave?
If you have a sick family member at home, or have an illness of your own, you may be wondering how much time you can take from work. The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) answers this question for you.
The FMLA covers many U.S. workers, allowing them to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave in a 12-month timeframe. Although your employer does not have to pay you for the 12 weeks, they do have to keep your job (or a similar job) open for you to return to.
Who the FMLA covers
The FMLA covers most workers, but not all. The law applies to all public employees, such as city, school district or federal government workers. If you work for a private employer, your company must have at least 50 employees working for 20 weeks or more during the year.
In addition, you must have worked for your employer for at least 12 months. You can have a time gap in that 12 months, however, as long as the gap is less than seven years. You also must have worked 1,250 hours over that 12-month timespan.
When you can take FMLA leave
If FMLA applies to you, your next question might be “When can I take my leave?” FMLA leave is meant for special situations, including:
- The birth of a child
- Placement with you of a foster or adopted child
- A serious medical condition requiring you to take care of your child, spouse or parent
- Your own “serious health condition”
- Certain circumstances arising from family members on active duty in the National Guard or Reserves
The law describes “serious health condition” as an injury or illness that requires inpatient care or ongoing medical care. If your employer provides health insurance, you have the right to stay on that insurance during your leave.
Giving your employer notice of your leave
If you decide to take FMLA leave, you need to follow certain steps. Give your employer 30 days-notice, if possible. Otherwise, let them know as soon as you can. If you have paid vacation or sick time, you can take that as part of your 12 weeks, and you will be paid for that time. Your employer can also require you to use your paid time off.
The first time you take FMLA leave, you do not have to tell your employer you are using FMLA leave time, but you do have to provide them with enough information for them to grant you the leave if you later decide to use it.
Do you have questions?
If you have questions about FMLA, contact a lawyer who has experience in this area of the law.
This information is not intended to be legal advice. Consult an attorney for individual advice regarding your situation.