How Long is FMLA Leave and How Can You Come Back from FMLA Leave?

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) of 1993, entitles all government workers and certain workers at private business to take unpaid, job-protected leave for serious family and healthcare situations with the extension of any benefits under the same conditions as if the worker had continued working.

This law was written to allow workers to achieve a healthy work-life balance that falls in line with American ideals.

How Long is FMLA Leave?

A staff member who has worked for their employer for a minimum of twelve months and has worked a minimum of 1,250 hours during the last 12 months is entitled to FMLA. The 12 months need not be consecutive and the employer will count all months worked other than those that were worked before a break in service lasting more than 7 years – except for if that break was due to military service or was addressed in a written agreement prior to the break taking place.

Eligible workers may take up to 12 weeks of FMLA leave within a rolling 12-month time period if their own substantial health condition, including pregnancy, gets in the way of their ability to properly perform their job. A worker may also take leave for the birth of their child, along with the bringing of a child to the worker’s family through adoption or for foster care, and to care for that child in either situation.

Employees can also take off to care for their spouse, child or parent who has a severe health condition – or to handle certain “qualifying exigencies” tied to the active military duty of a close relative. A qualifying exigency is deemed as specific activities developing out of a family member’s active duty, such as organizing childcare needs, making legal plans or attending therapy.

Reasons for FMLA Leave

Leave for the arrival of a new child, whether through birth or placement into the home, must be within 12 months of the arrival. Leave, for this reason, cannot be taken intermittently or on a decreased schedule under the FMLA. However, the employer and the employees can agree on a schedule of leave. If both the mother and father work for the same employer, they can take a combined overall of 12 weeks of leave during the 12-month period under the FMLA.

An employee can take leave for a substantial health condition intermittently or on a decreased schedule, but only if a medical doctor certifies intermittent leave as a medical necessity. If intermittent leave is granted, the worker must make sensible attempts to plan the leave so it won’t interrupt the operation of the business. The employer may briefly transfer workers to an alternative job if a worker needs intermittent leave or is on a decreased schedule. In such cases, the substitute job must have equal pay and benefits.

Considering how long FMLA is good for, employers may require their workers on FMLA leave remain in contact regarding their status as appropriate and necessary under the circumstances. A company can also mandate workers regularly update their supervisors about when they intend to come back to work.

It is the worker’s obligation to supply a finished, adequate, and timely medical validation when asking for leave. An employer can ask for a worker to have their medical doctor fill out a validation form. The worker has 15 calendar days to give back the finished form. The worker should know how long the FMLA validation window is, and failure to offer a finished and adequate medical validation could result in refusal of leave, unless and until the finished and adequate medical validation is supplied.

The company reserves the right to ask for and acquire a second opinion of a severe health problem from a medical doctor at the employer’s expense. When the first and second opinions conflict, the company may pay for and get a third opinion that would be final and binding.

How Long is FMLA Leave for Military Service-Related Issues?

As stated before, a worker can take off to handle certain affairs of an immediate who is called away to active duty in the US military. Leave in this situation is the same as for a medical condition, 12 weeks per 12-month period.

FMLA also guarantees up to 26 weeks of leave in a single 12-month period for a worker who is directly related to a covered service member to care for that service member who suffered a severe injury or illness in the line of duty and is going through medical treatment, recovery, or therapy; or is on the temporary disability retired list.

An eligible worker can take Military Caregiver Leave for 26 weeks and leave for any other FMLA qualifying reason in a 12-month period, given that the worker may not take over 12 weeks of leave for any other qualifying reason under the FMLA regulation during this time period.

Coming Back from FMLA Leave

A worker is eligible for immediate restoration once they report back to duty. If the company knows well ahead of time exactly when a worker will return, the worker must be reinstated the day they report back to work.

Before a worker can come back to work from their own severe health condition, the worker may have to present a validation from their medical doctor that they are able to come back to work, and will be able to carry out their job duties without being a substantial risk to themselves or others.

If a worker’s return from FMLA-protected leave is postponed or accelerated, a company may mandate that the worker give notice, a minimum of two business days ahead of time, of the date they plan to come back to work. If the worker just suddenly shows up for work, and the company can’t restore the worker immediately, the worker should be brought back within two working days.

Companies should hand out information to their workers titled “How Long is FMLA Leave?” that describes how long FMLA leave is and how long FMLA is good for.