There are times in your life when you are met with extenuating circumstances that require a leave of absence from work. Taking a hiatus from your job in order to focus your time on a more important portion of your life, brings the risk of losing your job and long-term source of income, not to mention the health benefits. Luckily, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) was created to secure vacant positions while an employee is taking time off for medical reasons.
What is FMLA
FMLA is a federal law that allows eligible employees up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave each year while protecting them from job loss. Additionally, employers must continue health benefits of these employees while they are on leave. Upon return, the employee is entitled to the same position or one of equal scope, pay, and benefits.
When Can You Use FMLA
Some FMLA eligible circumstances include the birth of a child, adoption, an extended illness that prevents an employee from performing a job function, or being a caregiver for a sick or injured family member. All of these qualifying events require full-time attention. For this reason, the Family and Medical Leave Act was designed to protect long-term employment for those who have to take a short leave of absence.
How Does FMLA Work
FMLA does not require the employer to compensate the employee for their time off. However, some employers pair a short-term disability policy. This helps defray some of the financial burdens of their employee being out of work. Additionally, PTO or accrued time can also be taken.
Not all employers are required to offer FMLA and certain criteria must be met. Some covered entities are:
- Private employer with at least 50 employees
- Any public agency regardless of staff size.
- Elementary and secondary schools regardless of staff size.
Am I Eligible for FMLA
Additionally, employees must meet certain eligibility requirements in order to qualify for FMLA benefits. The employee must be employed for 12 months and work for an employer who carries the benefit. Employees must have at least 1,250 hours of work time within the last 12 months.
How Can I Apply
In order to apply for FMLA, an employee should work directly with their HR department. Documentation of illness or upcoming medical status may be required. Many companies allow or require the employee to use accrued vacation, sick or PTO time to fill the gap until benefits begin. In some cases, the 12 weeks can be taken non-consecutively if requirements are met and approval garnered.
Will They Hold My Job
Upon return to work, if the employer cannot offer the employee the same position, they must provide an almost identical one which includes:
- Same work schedule
- Same physical proximity
- Similar job function
- Save general level of skill and responsibility
- Identical compensation package.
There are certain times in your life when you need to focus your time and energy outside of the work place. Whether you are bonding with a newly born baby, spending acclimation time with an adopted child, nursing an illness or surgery or caring for a sick loved one, FMLA provides peace of mind for when you are able to return to work. For those caring for a family member wounded while serving our country, the leave can be even longer. No one should have to choose between a sick family member and paying the bills. These laws are crucial to protecting the well-being of the employees while setting a standard that people need the capacity to flow between their jobs and personal lives easier.