Is FMLA Paid or Unpaind?

Read the Entire Must Know Series

Signed into federal law in 1993, the Family and Health-related Leave Act (FMLA) supplies critical rights to workers who need to take family or medical leave – which is time off work in order to deal with family and personal medical issues.

However, many people have questions still about the FMLA – such as “Is FMLA Paid or Unpaid Leave?”

It should well understood that rights under the FMLA rights are restricted, and the time off work is unpaid. Along with FMLA unpaid leave, many states have passed their own absence, family and medical leave laws that exert beyond the protections afforded by the FMLA. Also, several organizations offer paid leave for situations such as pregnancy or are otherwise taking a more active role with respect to leave time.

What is Covered Under FMLA?

FMLA mandates that private businesses with more than 50 employees who all live within a 75-mile radius must give their employees up to 12 weeks of unpaid time off across a rolling 12-month period to care for a critically ill family member, recover from a significant illness, take care of a new or adopted child, or handle issues arising from a family member’s military obligation. Workers at these companies can also take up to 26 weeks of job-protected unpaid leave to care for a family member who is critically injured in the line of military duty. Whenever a worker returns from leave, they enjoy the right to return back to the same or an equal position.

To be eligible for leave, the worker must have been employed by his organization for a minimum of 12 months and worked at least 1,250 hours to be eligible, neither of which need be consecutive.

If an employee becomes a new parent, adoptive parent or foster parent, they may take FMLA unpaid leave within 12 months after the child is born or placed in their home. A worker may start their leave before the child arrives if needed, for prenatal care in the case of a live birth or to otherwise make arrangements for the child’s arrival. If the parents are both employed by the same company, they may be eligible for less than 12 weeks each.

A worker can take leave to recover from their own severe health problem. Usually, a worker needing serious, chronic treatment or who is physically impaired for a number of days while in the care of a doctor has a substantial health condition. An employee is also able to take leave to look after a critically ill family member. It should be noted that grandparents, domestic partners, in-laws or siblings are not covered under the FMLA.

Employees are eligible for FMLA unpaid leave to address certain immediate matters due to a family member’s active military service, such as coordinating child care, looking for counseling or bonding with the family member who is set to be deployed.

If a worker’s family member experiences a severe injury or illness while, on active military duty, the worker can take up to 26 weeks of leave within a 12-month period to supply care. FMLA unpaid leave, in this case, is on a per-service member, per-injury basis. Unless a different family member is wounded, or a different debilitating injury to the same family member takes place, the worker is not eligible for any more leave once the 26-week right is spent.

Forcing Unpaid FMLA Leave vs. Paid Leave

As is their right, some companies mandate that employees take paid leave concurrently with unpaid FMLA leave – the only situation considered FMLA paid leave. Paid time-off benefits are typically arranged between companies and workers. Limitations on the length of notice necessary to use paid time-off and the amounts of paid time-off available are dictated by the terms of employment, not the FMLA. FMLA unpaid leave should not be restricted by the business, and certified absences under the law cannot be refused on account of company policy.

Companies should develop policies to be used consistently for when may use paid time-off and when they can’t use it. Many organizations have peak operating times, and companies may apply limitations concerning the use of accrued time-off over these periods – assuming they do so reliably and without discrimination.

Additionally, there may be occasions when a company’s business operations consider it essential to reduce staff temporarily through shutdowns or slow operating periods. At these times, organizations may require workers to use their paid time off benefits, again, assuming they do so reliably and without discrimination. Organization should be carefully not to restrict the use of leave; if paid time off is offered, workers should have a realistic opportunity to make use of the benefit.
The Push for FMLA Paid Leave

Critics of the current FMLA law argue that it doesn’t meet the needs of workers – many of whom cannot afford to take time away from their job without pay.
This issue often crops up when discussing maternity leave, which is covered under the FMLA. While new mothers in the US can take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave off, the United State is one of only 3 countries in the world that does not provide some kind of paid maternity leave, according to a study released this year by the United Nations.

Some say the lack of paid maternity leave is tantamount to pay discrimination against women, and many organizations are clamoring for the federal or state governments to take action. While some states and companies do offer paid maternity leave, the possibility, of the federal government passing such a law, appears to be remote at this time.

With the laws and debate surrounding the FMLA constantly in flux, companies should regularly consider passing out literature on the subject – literature that answers questions like, “Is FMLA Paid, or Unpaid Leave?”

Qcera offers many solutions, both software- and web-based, that can be used to put together this kind of literature. All of Qcera’s products are backed by full service from knowledgeable company professionals.