How Does FMLA Work and How to Apply

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If an employee can’t perform their job because of a serious health condition, or because they need to care for a child, spouse or parent with a severe health condition, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) provides unpaid job-protected leave up to 12 weeks.

Who Can Apply for FMLA Leave?

In order to take FMLA leave, first the worker must be employed by a company registered under the law. If you have worked for a private employer with a minimum of 50, you should know how to apply for FMLA leave. While private employers with fewer than 50 workers are not protected by the FMLA, they may fall under state family and medical leave laws. Elementary and secondary schools and government agencies are included under the FMLA, regardless of workforce size.

If the worker is with a covered company, the worker needs to meet added criteria to be eligible to get FMLA leave. Not everyone, who works for a covered company, can get FMLA leave. The employees must have been working for the company a minimum of consecutive 12 months. If the worker had a break in service that lasted greater than seven years, they could not consider the period of employment ahead of the seven-year break.

Also, a worker must have worked for the company for a minimum of 1,250 hours in the 12 months before the worker starts to look into how to get FMLA leave. The worker looking into how to apply for FMLA leave must also work at a site where the company workers are living within 75 miles of the primary location.

A worker can take FMLA leave to care for their spouse, child or parent who has a substantial health condition, or when a worker is unable to work because of a serious health condition. Significant health conditions include those requiring an overnight stay in a medical care facility such as a hospital. Serious conditions also include those that physically incapacitate a worker or their family member for over three straight days and require continuous medical treatment. Pregnancy, including medical appointments, may fall under the consideration of a serious condition, such as the case of incapacitation due to morning sickness.

A worker may take FMLA leave after the birth of a child and to bond with the newborn child. An employee can also take FMLA leave for the adoption a child or placement through foster care and to bond with that child. Women and men have the identical right to take leave on FMLA to bond with their child but it needs to be taken within 12 months of the child’s placement or birth and must be utilized as a continual block of leave unless intermittent leave is agreed to between the company and employee.
The FMLA also affords certain military family leave entitlements. A worker may take FMLA leave for reasons in connection with certain military deployments or take as much as 26 weeks of leave on FMLA in a single 12-month period to tend to a family member with a significant injury or illness which is also a member of the military.
A worker can take FMLA leave as either one large block of time or in a number of, smaller blocks of time if medically required. If medically necessary, they can also take leave on a part-time basis. If a worker needs numerous periods of leave for scheduled medical treatment such as physical therapy sessions, they must try to plan the treatment at a time that minimizes the interruption to their company.

How to Apply for FMLA Leave

To take FMLA leave, the worker must supply their company with appropriate notice. If the employee knows that they will need FMLA leave, they must give their company a minimum of 30 days advance notice. If the worker finds out about their need, in advance, for leave less than 30 days, the worker must give their company notice as soon as possible.

The employee should also consult their employer’s usual notice or call-in procedures to find out how to get FMLA leave, if possible. While the worker does not have to ask expressly for FMLA leave on their first leave request, they should supply enough information so that their company can check if it may be protected by the FMLA. Once an issue has been approved for FMLA leave and the worker needs to know how to get FMLA leave extended, their request must point out that the condition or their need for FMLA leave still exists. If the worker doesn’t give their company enough information to tell if their leave may be protected by the FMLA, their leave might not be guaranteed. While a worker does not have to tell their company their exact diagnosis, they do need to supply information suggesting that their leave is due to an FMLA-protected condition.

How Does FMLA Work?

FMLA leave is unpaid leave. However, if an employee has sick time, vacation time, personal time, or other accrued/earned time off – they may use that leave time, along with their FMLA leave so that they continue to get paid. In order to use such leave, an employee must follow their company leave policy. Even if a worker doesn’t want to use their paid leave, their company can require them to use it during their FMLA leave.

If a worker takes FMLA leave, their company must continue their health insurance as if a worker were still working. However, the worker may be required to carry on making contributions to plans. Provided that a worker is capable of returning to work upon exhausting their FMLA leave, an employee must return to the same job, or one virtually identical to it. This job protection is supposed to reduce the stress that an employee would otherwise feel if forced to choose between family and work during a substantial medical situation. Time off work under the FMLA cannot be held against a worker in employment decisions such as promotions or discipline, according to the law.

Companies should inform their employees how to apply for FMLA leave and how to get FMLA leave. One way would be to pass out literature with the theme, “How Does FMLA Work?”

In order to keep up to date on the latest FMLA regulations, Qcera offers a range of web-based and software products for employers.


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