What is FMLA and how does it work?

FMLA stands for Family and Medical Leave Act. It provides eligible employees with leave for up to 12 weeks annually. There are many reasons employees take FMLA leave, such as an illness, caring for a sick dependent or spending time with a newborn baby. FMLA can also work for employees requiring substance abuse treatment. A significant benefit of FMLA is that you can remain on your employer’s health insurance during your leave. You are also guaranteed a job when you return.

That job will be equivalent to what you had before leaving. FMLA applies to eligible employees who meet the criteria. You must work for a covered employer for at least 12 months to qualify, and that timeframe does not have to be consecutive. Seasonal workers are eligible if they have worked at least 1,250 hours within 12 months. A covered employer is a company with at least 50 employees for a minimum of 20 workweeks.

What qualifies for FMLA leave?

There are many scenarios and health issues that qualify for FMLA leave. You can take time off to care for yourself when dealing with a serious health condition. The same applies to caring for a child, spouse or parent with an illness. FMLA broadly defines a serious condition as an injury, illness, or impairment. It includes physical and mental conditions requiring inpatient treatment or continuing care. Here are common reason employees use FMLA:

  • Receiving treatment for a health condition
  • Bonding with a newborn baby
  • Placement of a foster child
  • Caring for a sick parent

It is common for employees to require time off but not understand FMLA and whether it is available to them. Many employees are unaware that they can get the time needed to treat a health condition. It’s why human resources often guide employees through the FMLA application process. Communicating why you need the time off will initiate the process. Most employers have written policies and procedures that will guide you along the way.

What protections do I have?

FMLA allows employees to take time off without losing their salary or benefits. It also requires employers to provide the same or a similar job when the employee returns. You can take unpaid leave totaling 12 weeks over a 12-month timeframe. There are some instances when more time is allowed. Military personnel can get up to 26 weeks off to care for themselves and others.

In addition to maintaining your health coverage, family members covered under your plan will keep their healthcare coverage. Even though FMLA is unpaid leave, there are some instances when employees can get paid during their time off using paid leave benefits already accrued. That means you can enjoy FMLA protections and receive a regular paycheck during your leave. Most employers have internal processes and rules for requesting time off. It’s best to become familiar with those rules to ensure you submit your leave request according to company requirements.

What happens when I’m able to work again?

Having access to FMLA will provide the time you need to care for yourself or others. It’s always best to keep the lines of communication open with your employer. That should start before you go on leave and continue while you are away. Communicating periodically with your employer will help to ensure a smooth process upon your return. Sometimes an employer will require certification that confirms your ability to go back to work. That requirement is only if the leave was for a serious illness.

They may refer to it as a fitness-for-duty certification. It’s a document that can be provided by a healthcare professional. Certification is not required if you take time off to care for a family member. You can always get information from your employer regarding any procedural leave requirements. Call us today at 772-934-6580 for more information. Our counselors are available to provide the guidance you or your loved one needs.

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