FMLA: Ensuring You Can Take Time Away

In 1993, Congress recognized the need for extended time away from work and passed the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).

If you’ve been in the workforce for a while, it’s likely you have a set number of sick and vacation days. The average American worker has 7-8 paid sick days, but some years that just isn’t enough time. Between prolonged sickness, birth or adoption of a child, or family illness, you may need a longer block of time away from work.

In 1993, Congress recognized the need for extended time away from work and passed the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). This act allows eligible employees to take up to 12 unpaid weeks off from work with the guarantee that they will be reinstated at the end of their leave or be given an equivalent position. It also guarantees that employees keep any benefits they had before the leave period began (for example, you would not lose your medical coverage if you had accrued it before taking leave). The FMLA applies to all public agencies, public and private elementary and secondary schools, and companies with 50 or more employees.

There are multiple reasons one may qualify to take FMLA-covered leave (this list is not exhaustive, but a full list of requirements can be found HERE):

  • The birth, adoption, or foster care placement of a child within one year
  • Taking care of an ill spouse, child, or parent
  • Being too ill to properly do one’s own job
  • Emergencies related to the employee’s spouse, child, or parent being a covered military member on active duty

Additionally, in order to be eligible, one must:

  • Have worked for their employer at least 12 months
  • Have worked at least 1,250 hours over the past 12 months
  • Work at a location where the company employs 50 or more employees within 75 miles

If you need to apply for FMLA, the best place to start is your company’s Human Resources department. They can let you know whether you are eligible and help you through the application process if you are.

Fact Sheet #28: The Family and Medical Leave Act | U.S. Department of Labor (dol.gov)

Private industry workers with sick leave benefits received 8 days per year at 20 years of service : The Economics Daily: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (bls.gov)
The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA): The Basics | Bipartisan Policy Center