Many employees feel loyalty to their employers that comes second only to their families. Eventually, they may find themselves in a situation that tests both of those loyalties simultaneously.
When someone has medical or family issues, they may have to make the difficult decision to seek a temporary leave of absence from their employment. Especially if they don’t have substantial paid time off benefits, they may need to request an unpaid leave of absence from their job.
In theory, federal law protects the right of workers to request unpaid leave in certain situations. The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) applies to many workplaces and allows people to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave in certain circumstances.
When does the FMLA apply to a leave request?
When the company and the worker meet certain requirements
Small businesses with only five employees are not in a position to casually absorb the unpaid absence of one staff member for three months. However, a large business with numerous facilities can easily accommodate an extended leave of absence. The law seeks to balance the needs of workers with the needs of the companies that employ them by limiting when workers can ask for unpaid leave.
The FMLA typically only applies to businesses with 50 or more employees. Additionally, only workers who have worked for that company for at least a year qualify for FMLA leave. A worker should have put in at least 1,250 hours in the last 12 months if they want to make an FMLA leave request.
When the circumstances fall into one of three categories
Leave under the FMLA is only an option in three specific situations. The first is when an employee needs to care for a spouse, child or parent who has a disabling medical condition or who is recovering from a medical procedure. Those caring for an active-duty servicemember could potentially take up to 26 weeks of leave rather than the standard 12 weeks allowed in most other situations.
The second is when the worker experiences some kind of medical event that requires time off for their recovery. The third and final scenario where FMLA leave is an option involves adding a child to the family through birth, adoption or foster placement.
Understanding the employment laws that relate to different worker requests can help both employees and employers.