The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is a federal law that helps workers maintain a healthy work-life balance. If you work for a qualifying employer, FMLA lets you request unpaid leave under certain circumstances. You typically need at least 1,250 work hours in the last 12 months to request FMLA leave. Beyond that, you must meet at least one of three criteria.
- You can use FMLA leave when you need to undergo medical treatment.
- You can also take leave to provide support for a spouse, child or parent who needs medical treatment.
- You can also ask for FMLA leave if you give birth to a child, adopt a child or become a foster parent.
There is an annual limit for FMLA leave
You might need FMLA leave for multiple reasons in a relatively short span of time. You could have a medical issue yourself and then have a baby a few months later. However, your eligibility for unpaid FMLA leave renews on an annual basis. The current rules for FMLA allow you to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave in one year, regardless of how many family or personal medical issues you have. Someone may choose to take less than 12 weeks of leave to preserve additional leave in case other medical situations arise within the same 12 months.
There is one exception to this rule
Workers may qualify for a longer period of unpaid leave in one specific situation. FMLA allows for a longer unpaid leave if you must provide medical care to a family member, and the family member needing support is an active-duty military servicemember. In that case, you may be entitled to up to 26 weeks of unpaid leave.
If your employer has denied your rightful FMLA leave, or if you have been fired for taking leave, we encourage you to learn more at our FMLA overview.