FMLA, better known as the Family and Medical Leave Act entitles employees to take up to 12 weeks of leave for specific family-related reasons without the threat of losing their jobs. FMLA was enacted in August of 1993 to protect employees from bullying tactics and to level the playing field for employees with young families.
Who is Eligible?
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, anyone who works for a public agency or a private sector employer that employs over 50 people and who has worked for that employer for a minimum of one year (or over 1,250 hours) within the United States is eligible to apply for leave.
There are five valid reasons for taking FMLA leave. These reasons are the birth and care of a newborn; adoption of a child or placement of a foster care child; caring for a spouse, child or parent with a serious medical condition; having a serious illness that inhibits the ability to work; and qualifying military exigencies.
FMLA Time is Not Paid
The leave associated with FMLA is not paid time off, but rather unpaid time taken for the express purpose stated in the leave request. If approved by your employer, accrued paid leave (sick time or vacation time) can be used to cover some or all of the FMLA time. These substitutions are up to individual employers and their terms and conditions as outlined in the company leave policy.
Health Insurance Coverage
FMLA stipulates that health insurance coverage will continue to be provided to the employee so long as she is on leave. Employers can request that employees continue to pay their portion of the premiums during this time. If an employee does not return to work after their FMLA time is up, employers can require that employee pay them for all of the entire amount of insurance coverage payments (premiums) accrued over the leave time.
FMLA guarantees that an employee may return to either his original job or an equivalent job. Pay rate, benefits and other terms and conditions must remain the same as they were for the original position. FMLA time cannot be used against you either for attendance purposes or to restrict or remove privileges.
How Do You Apply for FMLA?
To apply for leave you should ideally request the time in writing at least 30 days prior to the time needed, when possible. If you need to take leave with less than 30 days notice you will need to apply for leave as soon as possible. Leave needed either the same day or the next business day can be requested verbally. When applying for leave be prepared to answer questions by your employer as they verify that you are in fact eligible to take FMLA time.