The whole point of having a job is to work and earn money. Your employer likely relies on you and expects a good attendance record, but sometimes life puts you in a position where you need time away from work.
You may come down with an illness or suffer an injury that requires rest as part of your recovery. You could find yourself on the verge of welcoming a new member to your family. You might even have to provide recovery care for a loved one after their surgery or a car crash.
While it is sometimes inconvenient for employers to accommodate the needs of their employees for extended time off, employees with medical or family reasons for requesting unpaid leave may have the protections of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) to help them.
What does the FMLA provide for workers?
As you may be able to guess based on the name of the act, the FMLA provides legal protections for workers who need to take leave from work due to medical reasons or family situations. All private companies that employ at least 50 workers are typically required to comply with the FMLA.
In order for you to qualify for leave, you must have worked for at least 1,250 hours for the company in the last 12 months and must have at least 12 months of employment with the company. Qualifying workers employed by companies required to abide by the FMLA can request up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for certain situations.
What situations qualify a worker for leave?
Not every personal or family situation justifies an extended leave of absence under the protections of the FMLA. However, you can take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave if you:
- need to recover from an illness or medical procedure
- need to provide care for a spouse, child or parent,
- have recently had a baby
- have recently adopted a child
- have recently had a foster child placed in your home
For those providing care for family members, if that family member served in the United States military, the permissible leave extends to 26 weeks instead of 12 weeks. Your employer should allow you to take the leave and then return to the same position or a comparable one after your leave ends.