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Why Every Employee Should Know About the Family and Medical Leave Act

If you’re working at a larger company and married and welcoming in a new member of the family, you probably know something about an amazing benefit called the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).

And since the majority of the future population may be parenting one day, this article from Empire Resume will give the rest of you all the worthwhile information to help you get the most out of this benefit.

What is FMLA and What Does it Offer?

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is a United States labor law that allows eligible employees (regardless of gender or sexual orientation) the right to take a temporary and unpaid leave of absence. Yes you read that correctly, unpaid! So don’t get all excited to conceive just yet.

This law was enacted in 1993 to ease the demands of the workplace and to help employees with their pregnancy needs or medical situations.

Under the FMLA, qualified employees are entitled to take up to 84 days of “unpaid” leave within a full calendar year. This leave is also renewed every year as long as you meet the prerequisites.

During this time, the employee’s job position or an equivalent position is preserved and held, meaning they cannot be fired or retaliated against in any way for taking their FMLA leave.

The FMLA allows employees to take leave for the following reasons:

  1. Delivery of a newborn child.
  2. Adoption and/or foster care of a child.
  3. Care for a spouse, child, or parent with a severe disease
  4. The employee’s health condition that renders them unable to perform their job duties.
  5. Qualifying exigencies arising from a family member or parent being on active duty as a servicemember of the National Guard or Reserves

Eligibility and Requirements

To be eligible for FMLA, employees must meet the U.S. Department of Labor requirements, for example, having worked for a valid employer for 12 months and having worked at least 1,250 hours during that time. On a side note, those obligatory 12 months of employment do not have to be in any sort of chronological order.

Family Medical Leave may sound like it’s just for pregnant women, but the medical part may have nothing to do with reproduction at all. A few examples of non-pregnancy physical and mental health conditions found under this act are chronic illnesses like rheumatoid arthritis, cancer, stress, and depression. It’s also safe to say that if there is a need for long-term treatment by a health care provider, you should be covered.

Of course, there are exceptions to these rules such as, a written agreement or collective bargaining governed by the powers that be.

Federal and Military Paid Leave

The FMLA laws do not necessarily provide the same benefits to military service members. Their benefits are even better. The prerequisites especially do not have to be in any sequential order for active duty military because of factors like being on tour, voluntary discharge, or contracted military obligations.

Additionally, the FMLA gives military employees a maximum of 26 weeks of unpaid leave (that’s 14-weeks more than the allowed 12 weeks than regular civilians get). You may use your benefits any time within a year for yourself or insured servicemembers with a severe illness or long-term injury..

However, everything hasn’t been as easy for federal and military employees. Federal paid parental leave officially began in 2004. That’s 11 years after the FMLA was put in place.

And the much anticipated military family leave benefits were added to the Family Medical and Leave Act (FMLA) in 2008. Better late than never, right? There may not be a more appropriate time than now to tell our uniformed heroes “Thank you for your service”.

How do I Know if I Can Be Covered

There are different ways to tell if your employer is usually covered. One foolproof way is to literally ask them. Human Resources or your direct supervisor would be able to give you all the necessary documentation.

Another infallible way would be to simply check to see if your company has more than 50 people. Good news to you lucky few who are probably reading this right now, having less than 50 employees at a company may not be an indefinite no to your application. If you are not covered by the FMLA, you may be offered state and local family and medical leave benefits.

And to the fathers out there, you were never forgotten. You’ve been covered from the very start in 1993 when the Law was first passed. Regardless of having this opportunity, there have been many stories told about fathers who preferred not to use this benefit.

Now that you’ve picked up your jaw from the floor, I’ll continue.

Read the Fine Print

The specific details and regulations related to FMLA can vary, so it’s advisable to consult the U.S. Department of Labor or an employment attorney for the most up-to-date and accurate information regarding eligibility and requirements.

It’s important to note that while FMLA provides job protection, it does not guarantee paid leave. Some employers may offer paid leave benefits, but the FMLA itself only ensures unpaid leave.

However, employees can use their accrued paid leave, such as sick or vacation time, to cover some or all their FMLA leave period if they choose or if their employer requires it.

And for those of you asking if they can combine PTO, Vacation Time, Maternity/ Paternity Leave, and Sick days consecutively, we at Empire Resume salute you. You are a legend. Take our advice and enjoy those precious bonding days that pass by oh so quickly.