Family Medical Leave Act

The Family Medical Leave Act, or FMLA, is a federal law that helps workers keep their jobs when they need time off for their own health condition, or the health of a family member. FMLA can also be used to care for a spouse, child, or parent with a serious health need. FMLA can’t be used to care for a grandparent or in-law, or another relative.

Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA)

What can you get out of the FMLA?

Under the Family Medical Leave Act, you may be able to take up to 12 weeks of job-protected time off if you need to miss work because of a serious health condition. This could be your own serious health condition or caring for a family member with a serious health condition.

If you take FMLA to leave, your employer must keep paying for your health insurance as if you were not on leave. You may be required to continue to make any normal employee contributions.

As long as you can go back to work before your FMLA leave is up, you have to go back to the same job (or one nearly identical to it). This job protection is meant to make you feel less stressed if you have to choose between work and family because of a serious health problem.

What can you get out of the FMLA
What can you get out of the FMLA?

When you take time off under The Family Medical Leave Act, it can’t hurt you in ways like getting hired, getting a promotion, or getting fired.

Medically necessary FMLA leave can be taken all at once or in smaller chunks. For example, you could take three weeks off for surgery and recovery (for example, occasional absences due to diabetes). If you need medical leave, you can also take it part-time (for example, if after surgery you are able to return to work only four hours a day or three days a week for a period of time). If you need to take more than one leave for medical treatment, like physical therapy, you should try to plan the appointments so that they cause the least amount of trouble for your employer.

FMLA leave is time off without pay. But if you have sick time, vacation time, personal time, etc. saved up with your employer, you can use that time along with your Family Medical Leave Act leave so that you can keep getting paid.

FMLA Protects Workers

FMLA requires that employers make sure the person has the same job, or an equal job when they return from leave. A job is “equivalent” if it has similar pay, hours, responsibility, job conditions, and job security to the previous job. Also, employers can’t make decisions about a worker’s hiring, promotion, or discipline because of their use of FMLA.

When to use The Family Medical Leave Act

When to use The Family Medical Leave Act
When to use The Family Medical Leave Act

In order to use FMLA to care for a family member, the worker’s child, spouse, or parent must have a “serious health condition.” FMLA can’t be used for common illnesses that only last a short time, such as a cold.

FLMA Medical Form

Employers can request that the worker or family member’s doctor fill out a form that explains the health condition. The table below lists the questions the doctor must answer about the worker’s health.

FMLA medical forms ask doctors:

  • When the serious health condition began
  • If the person stayed overnight in a hospital or another health care center
  • If the person needs ongoing medical treatment
  • How long FMLA may be needed
  • If FMLA is needed all at once or a few days at a time

Health Records are Private

Even if the employer asks for a doctor to complete the form, the person’s health records are still private. The employee does not have to provide details about the health condition.

How to Request Family Medical Leave Act

How to Request Family Medical Leave Act
How to Request Family Medical Leave Act

Not everyone who works can use FMLA. To use Family Medical Leave Act, an employee must have:

  • Worked for their current employer for a total of 12 months.
  • Worked at least 1,250 hours in the past 12 months. This is at least 24 hours per week, on average.
  • An employer that has more than 50 employees in a 75-mile radius. Government agencies and public and private schools with fewer than 50 employees are also covered by Family Medical Leave Act.

Anyone interested in taking FMLA should talk to their employer’s human resources or personnel department to see if they can request FMLA.

Most of the time, the employee is required to request leave at least 30 days before it is needed. In cases of a medical emergency, FMLA can be used with short notice.

FMLA is Not Paid Time Off

FMLA gives workers up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave each year. The 12 weeks can be taken all at once, or in smaller amounts of time. For example, if a parent with a serious illness needs help getting to monthly doctor’s visits in a different city, a family caregiver can use a few days of FMLA each month to take them.

Workers with vacation or sick time can use it as part of FMLA, and will get paid for those hours. Under the law, employers may require that workers use all of their vacation or sick time before taking unpaid leave. Vacation and sick time took under FMLA will count as part of the 12 weeks.

Worker’s Benefits on Unpaid FMLA Leave

Worker's Benefits on Unpaid FMLA Leave
Worker’s Benefits on Unpaid FMLA Leave

Health care benefits will continue as normal while on unpaid FMLA leave. If employees usually pay part of the cost of insurance, they will need to continue to pay this amount. This means employees on unpaid leave may have to send money to the employer to pay their portion since it can’t be deducted from their paycheck as usual.

Employees do not earn additional paid sick or vacation time while on unpaid leave for FMLA.

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