FMLA – What is it and who is eligible?
As part of the human species we are all subject to illness and we have no control over when a serious illness or accident may take over our lives or the lives of someone we hold near and dear. Thankfully, the Family and Medical Leave Act was enacted on February 5, 1993. The purpose of this act was to grant employees temporary time off from work for family and medical circumstances. Many employees can now have peace of mind knowing that if they fall ill or need to take care of an immediate family member during illness, they will be able to take the time they need to do so.
There are many facets to the Family and Medical Leave act that are helpful to know before you find yourself in a situation where you need to take advantage of it. An article that the U.S. News and World Report published highlights the “6 Things You Need to Know About the Family and Medical Leave Act.”
First, what is it?
The Family and Medical Leave Act took effect in 1993 to help balance workplace demands with the medical needs of employees and their families. You’re entitled to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave during a 12-month period for your own serious health condition, or to care for an immediate family member who has a serious health condition.
Not every employee is eligible
Just because you’re working doesn’t mean you’re protected for extended leave under the FMLA. Eligible employees must have worked for their employer for at least 12 months prior to requesting the leave. They must also have worked at least 1,250 hours in those 12 months. For someone who works an eight-hour day, that translates to approximately 156 days. Your company must have at least 50 employees who work within 75 miles of its location. Once again, various states have different provisions, so consult with HR.
Your employer may require that you use paid leave first
Also check with HR about whether or not your employer will require that you use up your paid leave before using leave under the FMLA. If your company doesn’t require it, you may still elect to first use accrued time for the obvious financial benefits.
Your employer may require proof of the serious health condition
This can be a touchy issue when it comes to your own health and that of your family. It’s not written in the law that you must always garner proof of the reason you need to take leave, but your boss is entitled to ask for it, and if he or she does, you must obtain certification from a health care provider.
A job is guaranteed to you, but not necessarily the same job you had before
Ideally, your company will be able to restore you to the same job you had before. But that isn’t what’s guaranteed. According to the Department of Labor website, “an employee must be restored to the employee’s original job, or to an equivalent job with equivalent pay, benefits, and other terms and conditions of employment.”
You may request additional time to care for a member of the military
Under the FMLA, you may take up to 26 weeks of leave in a single 12-month period to care for a covered service member with a serious health condition, provided that you’re the service member’s spouse, child, parent or the nearest blood relative who has been granted legal custody of the injured service member. The same stipulations for employee and employer eligibility apply. Covered service members means someone in the regular or reserved Armed Forces who was on, or was called to active duty.
There are numerous other regulations and provisions to understand if you’re considering leave under the FMLA. For complete information on how the law may work for you, visit the Department of Labor’s website to view the Employees Guide to the Family and Medical Leave Act http://www.dol.gov/whd/fmla/employeeguide.pdf