The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) established the right of workers to take unpaid leave in specific situations. There are numerous restrictions on the FMLA that limit who can claim unpaid leave.
The law only applies to employers who have enough employees and workers who have been at the company for long enough to qualify. Even if the worker and the company meet those criteria, the FMLA only applies in a limited number of situations.
When can an employee ask for an unpaid leave of absence under the FMLA?
When they have a medical issue
One of the most important benefits of the FMLA is how it allows workers to take time off if they need medical care or rest to recover after an injury or a procedure, like surgery. Being able to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave in addition to whatever paid leave a worker has available to them can be important to their recovery.
When they have a child
One of the most common reasons that people take FMLA is after the birth of a child. Mothers need time off to heal after giving birth, and those weeks together with the infant can allow for crucial bonding.
You don’t have to give birth to qualify for child-related FMLA leave. Both adoption and foster placement can also give a worker the right to request leave (and that includes fathers).
When an immediate family member requires help
If a family member recently received a cancer diagnosis or survived a car accident, a worker can request unpaid leave to provide them with support during their recovery. Workers can typically only request leave to care for spouses, parents or children.
Understanding major employment laws like the FMLA is important both for a worker requesting leave or an employer evaluating a request.