Job protection is important for many employees, and especially for those who have been in the same position for years or depend on a specific salary to support their families. Fortunately, the Family and Medical Leave Act allows employees to take unpaid leave for a certain amount of time and return to their original position.
Not all employees are eligible for FMLA protections. However, for those who are, employers must allow them the time off, especially if requested with enough notice.
Details about the FMLA
According to the U.S. Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division, an eligible employee can take up to 12 weeks every year of unpaid leave for specified reasons. These include caring for a spouse, child or parent with a serious medical condition; caring for a newborn or a newly placed foster child; healing from a medical condition that prevents the employee from performing his or her job and a qualifying emergency related to a covered military family member.
FMLA also allows for 26 weeks of unpaid leave to care for a covered military family member who is suffering from a serious illness or injury. Although it is unpaid leave, the employee may continue to be under employer-covered health insurance benefits as long as the employee continues to pay his or her share of the premium. Upon returning to the job, the employer must allow the employee to return to the same position or something equivalent.
Not all employees are eligible for FMLA, and Benefits.gov describes the requirements. Employees of any government agency are eligible, and those who work for a private company must meet certain conditions such as:
- The company must employ a minimum of 50 people within 75 miles of the employee’s worksite
- The employee must have a minimum of 12 months working at the company
- The employee must have worked a minimum of 1,250 hours in the previous 12 months
In general, an employee must request FMLA leave at least 30 days prior to the leave date if it is a foreseeable need. For last minute situations, the employee should request leave as soon as possible.