How to Navigate Family Medical Leave in the Workplace
This guide can help you navigate family medical leave in the workplace.
Requesting medical leave in any industry can be a long, arduous process. Many people never think about how this process works until they are forced to navigate it in the wake of a medical event. One of the most common types of leave is family leave.
When family medical leave is brought up, most people think of maternity leave. While maternity leave is one of the most common reasons to take an extended time off of work, there are several other causes for medical leave, and each one requires a different process in order to be approved.
To help simplify this process, we've put together a guide that explains the ins and outs of requesting and taking family medical leave.
A Guide to Family Medical Leave
Typically, people take family leave to care for a family member. The U.S. Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) states that eligible employees of covered employers are entitled to take "unpaid, job-protected leave for specified family and medical reasons with continuation of group health insurance coverage under the same terms and conditions as if the employee had not taken leave."
Most people are permitted to take 12 weeks of family leave per year, provided they meet the necessary qualifications. However, those who are caring for a seriously injured U.S. service member are eligible to take up to 26 weeks per year.
According to the FMLA, a covered employer must grant leave to employees who request it for the following reasons:
- For the birth of a son or daughter, and to bond with the newborn child
- For the placement with the employee of a child for adoption or foster care, and to bond with that child
- To care for an immediate family member (spouse, child, or parent – but not a parent “in-law”) with a serious health condition;
- To take medical leave when the employee is unable to work because of a serious health condition; or
- For qualifying exigencies arising out of the fact that the employee’s spouse, son, daughter, or parent is on covered active duty or call to covered active duty status as a member of the National Guard, Reserves, or Regular Armed Forces.
If an employee needs to request leave for a different reason, they can do so, but they won't be covered under the FMLA act.
If you're requesting leave for one of the reasons above, you also must meet specific requirements to be eligible for family medical leave. You're eligible if you:
- Have worked for the employer for at least 12 months
- Have worked at least 1250 hours during the 12 months preceding the start of the leave
- Are employed at a worksite where the employer has at least 50 employees within 75 miles
It's important to note that though you must work for your employer for 12 months before requesting family leave, those months do not have to be consecutive.
Which Employees are Covered?
Private employers with at least 50 employees are covered by the FMLA. Government agencies and public and private elementary and secondary schools are covered by the FMLA, and it doesn't matter how many employees these institutions employ.
Is Family Medical Leave Paid?
According to a study conducted by the Institute for Women's Policy, the United States is one of the only developed countries that does not legally require employers to offer paid family leave.
Under the FMLA, no employer is required to offer paid family medical leave on a federal level. The employer must grant you leave if you meet all the necessary qualifications, but few offer payment while you're on leave. Employers must also protect your job until you return, or offer you an almost identical position.
These laws vary state by state, and only nine states require paid family leave. These include California, Colorado, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Washington D.C.
Because paid leave is not required in most U.S. states, many people cannot afford to request leave, even if they do qualify. This is why it's so important to do your research and know your rights before you request family medical leave. Make sure you speak to your employer about your situation. Even if they don't have a company-wide policy, they may be willing to work with you and offer full or partial payment during your leave.