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When do you get to take unpaid FMLA leave from work?

| May 10, 2021 | Employee Rights |

Paid time off is an employment benefit that many workers don’t receive. Companies don’t have an obligation to offer sick leave, personal time or vacation days. Some businesses provide such benefits for their workers as a perk, but many do not.

Whether your employer will pay you or not, there are times when you are going to require leave from your job. Many workers can seek such leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Before you make a request to your employer, it is wise to determine whether the FMLA applies to your circumstances.

Have you worked for the company long enough?

The first qualifying factor for FMLA leave is whether you have worked for the company for at least 12 months. During those 12 months of employment, you need to have performed at least 1,250 hours of work for the company. Those who have recently started at a job or who only work part-time may not qualify for leave under the FMLA.

Is the company big enough?

The ability to accommodate a worker who needs time away from their job depends on the company’s size. In general, for the FMLA to apply, the company must have at least 50 employees.

A business that only has six employees can’t reasonably ask five workers to each take on an extra 20% of the company’s workload, but a company with 300 workers can easily delegate the responsibility of one employee to others or move someone around to cover a crucial position left temporarily vacant.

Do your circumstances fit the FMLA requirements?

The FMLA guarantees the right to take unpaid leave to care for your own health or the health of a family member. It does not provide extended bereavement leave or allow workers to take time off for personal reasons, like divorce.

Instead, the FMLA focuses primarily on medical issues. A worker can take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave if they:

  • Have an injury or medical issue that requires care and rehabilitation
  • Have a spouse, parent or child with a medical condition that requires support
  • Have given birth
  • Have had a foster child placed in the home
  • Have adopted a child

Most workers can only request a maximum of 12 weeks of FMLA leave in a single year, regardless of how many family situations or medical issues they experience. However, in a situation where a spouse, parent or child takes time off of work to provide medical support for a recovering loved one who is a qualifying military service member, the total amount of unpaid leave may go up to 26 weeks.

Knowing if the FMLA covers you and what it allows makes it easier to advocate for yourself when you need time off from work and helps you stand up for yourself when an employer violates your rights.