Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
Eligibility and Benefits
The Family and Medical Leave Act is a federal law that can be of assistance if you need to take time off work because of family responsibilities. Enacted in 1993, FMLA requires certain companies to provide employees unpaid leave for issues related to family (such as caring for a newborn or adopted child) or health issues (your own or a family member's).
However, not all employers need to adhere to FMLA, and not all employees are eligible. Your company might even provide additional benefits, like paid maternity leave, or you may be eligible for disability insurance. Therefore, the first step is to ask your employer what FMLA benefits are provided to employees. If your manager isn't aware of FMLA guidelines, check with the human resources department directly.
What it Covers
Employers with more than 50 workers must provide eligible employees up to 12 workweeks of unpaid FMLA leave during any 12-month period. These 12 workweeks do not need to be consecutive.
In addition, the employer must give the employee his or her job back or offer them another position with equivalent pay and benefits. During this period, the employee still has all health benefits provided by the company, including health insurance.
An FMLA-eligible employee is an employee who has worked for their employer at least 12 months, has worked at least 1,250 hours over the past 12 months, and works at a location where the company employs 50 or more workers within 75 miles.
Under FMLA, covered employers must grant unpaid leave during any 12-month period for one or more of the following reasons:
- for the birth and care of a newborn child of the employee
- for care for an adopted child or child in foster care
- to care for an immediate family member (spouse, child, or parent) with a serious health condition
- to take medical leave when the employee is unable to work because of a serious health condition
- to deal with emergencies related to a family member’s active military duty
FMLA applies to both mothers and fathers, including same-sex spouses.
The National Defense Authorization Act extends coverage to employees with spouses, children, or parents who now are serving on, or have been called up for, active duty in the military. If these employees are covered by their employers, they can be granted up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for emergencies arising from a family member’s active military duty. These emergencies might include the following:
- childcare for the child of a deployed military member
- attending certain military briefings or ceremonies
- making financial or legal arrangements related to the military member’s absence
If the military member becomes seriously ill or injured while on active duty, coverage may be extended up to 26 weeks of unpaid leave each year.
California implemented a Paid Family Leave (PFL) insurance program in 2002, which when taken in conjunction with FMLA and California Family Rights Act (CFRA) leave, provides up to six weeks paid leave. The program is administered by the State Disability Insurance Program. Other states may have additional programs too, so check where you live to determine what benefits you are eligible for.
How to Tell Your Boss
Before talking to your boss and human resources department about wanting to take FMLA leave, see if your employer qualifies for FMLA leave. Check with your company’s human resources office. Also, see if your company provides other benefits related to your situation, such as maternity or paternity leave or disability insurance.
When you need to take FMLA leave, speak with your employer as soon as possible. You are required to provide 30-days advance notice in writing when the need is foreseeable. For example, if you know you are adopting a child and will need to take leave, it is typical that you will know at least that far in advance. However, if you are unable to tell your boss ahead of time, provide as much notice as possible.