The Basics: Understanding the Family Medical Leave Act
When you are feeling ill you can use sick leave to stay home and recuperate.
If your child is sick and needs your care, you can use sick leave from work as well. But what if your accrued sick leave is not enough to care for yourself or a sick family member? You may be covered by the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). This covers employees from Naples, Florida to Seattle, Washington and everywhere in between.
In 1993, President Clinton signed The Family Medical Leave Act into law. The FMLA gives employees the ability to take time off for a serious medical condition or for the birth or adoption of a child. The FMLA allows the employee to take up to 12 weeks, or 480 hours, of unpaid leave annually. The sick individual must be the employee or the employee’s immediate family member. Immediate family members are spouses, sons, daughters, or parents.
The FMLA further allows an employee to take up to 26 weeks of leave during a 12-month period if the employee is caring for a service member with a serious injury or illness. The employee must be the service member’s spouse, son, daughter, parent, or next of kin.
Can Everyone Use FMLA?
The short answer is no. Both the employer and employee must satisfy certain requirements. An FMLA covered employer is a private-sector employer with at least 50 employees; a public agency, including the local, state, or federal governments; or a public or private elementary or secondary school.
An eligible employee must work for a covered employer; have worked for the employer for at least 12 months; and work at a location where the employer has at least 50 employees within 75 miles.
An employee must put in a request for FMLA leave following the employer’s usual practices. If the need for FMLA leave is foreseeable, then employers commonly require 30 days notice. If the leave is not foreseeable, then the employee must give notice as soon as possible.
Other FMLA Issues
The employee can be required to use all accrued medical and personal leave prior to using FMLA leave. The employer can also request the employee’s health care provider to certify the need for the leave. The employer has the option to demand a second or third medical opinion, but the employer bears the costs for those evaluations. The employer must also maintain group health coverage for an employee on FMLA leave. However, the employer can require prepayment of premiums or continued payment while an employee is on FMLA leave.
If an employee uses FMLA leave, that employee must be returned to the same position or an equivalent position with equivalent pay, benefits, and other terms and conditions of employment. If the employee does not return after FMLA leave period, the employee is responsible for paying back the employer’s portion of the company health insurance premiums paid during the leave.