What Is FMLA?
Family and medical leave can help you keep your job in certain qualifying situations. Learn more about what FMLA leave is and how you can become eligible for it.
FMLA is an acronym for the Family and Medical Leave Act. Companies typically shorten it to FMLA in their handbooks and benefits information.
The Family and Medical Leave Act was designed to offer qualifying employees job-protected leave for certain qualifying situations related to family and medical situations. You can get up to 12 weeks of leave if you qualify, but the leave is unpaid. When you return, you can go back to the same job or a position that's equivalent in pay, benefits and conditions. You also get to keep your group health insurance coverage during the leave.
Federal FMLA has several rules and qualifications, so there's no guarantee you can take this type of leave. The following rules help you determine if you could be eligible.
Not all employers have to offer FMLA to their employees. All public agencies, including local, state and federal government agencies, have to follow FMLA guidelines regardless of the number of employees they have. The same is true for local educational agencies like public and private schools and public school boards.
Private-sector employees don't all fall under the FMLA requirements. Covered employers have 50 or more employees for 20 or more workweeks in the current or previous calendar year. That means if you work for a small company with fewer than 50 employees, you won't qualify for FMLA.
Not all employees working for a covered employer qualify for FMLA. You have to meet specific FMLA eligibility requirements, including:
- Working for a covered employer for a minimum of 12 months
- Working for at least 1,250 hours for the covered employer in the 12 months leading up to your FMLA leave
- Working in a location with at least 50 employees within 75 miles
If you're not sure if you qualify, check with your human resources department. They should be well-versed on the company's FMLA status and whether you'll qualify.
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FMLA leave is specifically for family and medical situations you might face. The idea is to allow you to take care of these situations without worrying about losing your job. Situations that apply to FMLA leave include:
- The birth of a baby
- Caring for a baby within the first year of birth
- Adoption or fostering of a child
- Caring for a child through adoption or foster care within one year of the placement
- Caring for a spouse, child or parent with a serious medical condition
- An employee's personal health condition
- Certain military service situations, including leave related to the foreign deployment of a family member and caring for a current service member or recent veteran who has an injury or illness
Most reasons offer up to 12 work weeks of unpaid leave during a 12-month period. Military caregiver FMLA leave qualifies you for up to 26 work weeks of leave in a 12-month period.
You don't have to take the 12 work weeks of FMLA in one chunk. You have up to 12 weeks for a 12-month period, but you can take it a few weeks at a time. You can even take a few days or partial days, depending on your needs. The time you get is based on your normal work week.
Calculating how much FMLA leave you use is based on how much time you're actually gone from work. If you wouldn't be scheduled to be at work on a certain day, that time doesn't count toward your FMLA amount. For example, say your company closes for several days around the holidays. If business activities stop for reasons similar to this, those days don't have to go into your FMLA calculations.
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