When lawmakers drafted and passed the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), they created a powerful federal protection for workers. Prior to the FMLA, companies could and frequently would terminate those who took an extended leave of absence, even if there was a very reasonable family or personal health explanation for the worker taking time off from their job.
The FMLA protects the right of individual workers to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave per year in certain qualifying circumstances. Determining if your current situation fits into one of the three categories that qualify a worker for leave will help you get the time off that you require to handle your personal affairs.
You have a health issue
Did you break your arm while teaching your middle school child how to roller skate? You may need a leave of absence until you are ready for the cast to come off and you regain full use of your arm. Did your doctor just diagnose you with cancer or a severe infection? You may need time in the hospital for treatments or rest because of how the care you need will affect your health.
Provided that you have a significant medical condition that warrants the leave request, you can potentially take time off of work to address your own health matters without facing career consequences.
Your family member has a health issue
Sometimes, those struggling with health concerns need support from family members. Your child with a broken leg may need around-the-clock support just to get to the bathroom and handle other daily tasks. A spouse going through chemotherapy may require constant support until they start to bounce back from treatment.
When your spouse, child or parent has a major health issue that requires support, you can take a leave of absence to provide that care. If they are a military service member, you may qualify for more leave than you usually would, possibly up to 26 weeks’ worth.
When you add a child to the family
It takes quite some time to recover medically from childbirth, which is one reason why a new baby qualifies you for FMLA leave. However, your health isn’t the only consideration. There’s also the adjustment of your family and the bonding means of the child to consider.
Families that grow due to adoption or foster placement instead of birth can also seek FMLA leave for the parents so that they can adjust to their changing family circumstances and appropriately support the new child in the family.
Knowing when you have the right to take FMLA leave can help you get the time off that you require or negotiate with your employer when they have refused to accommodate you.