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Some workers can take more FMLA leave than others

On Behalf of | Jan 10, 2024 | Medical Leave/FMLA

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) provides a key form of support for workers. Some employers offer paid leave, but not every employee has paid leave benefits. Even those who do may only receive a few days of leave annually. They may use those days for vacations or unexpected occurrences, like a sudden illness.

The FMLA helps to close the gap between what employers provide and what many workers actually require. In certain scenarios, workers who have maintained a job with a company for at least a year may qualify for unpaid leave under the FMLA. The three types of qualifying scenarios are the addition of a child to the family, a personal medical emergency or a family member requiring medical support. Some applicants are actually eligible for more than twice as much leave as the average person using the FMLA to take a leave of absence.

How much leave is available?

For most employees eligible for FMLA leave, 12 weeks per year is the maximum amount of unpaid leave they can take. Whether someone needs time away from work to recover after surgery or care for a child with a serious sports injury, they usually need to return to work within 12 weeks. If someone has more than one qualifying event per year, they still only get to use a total of 12 weeks of unpaid leave. Leave beyond those 12 weeks might put someone’s future employment at risk.

However, there is one scenario in which workers can take more unpaid leave. The FMLA allows people to take time off to provide medical support for their parents, spouses and children. If the person with the medical challenges in need of family support is an active-duty military servicemember, the available FMLA leave increases to 26 weeks.

Those additional weeks off can be very useful for those who have already taken leave for other situations. They can also allow someone an opportunity to provide better support to their struggling family member.

Typically, workers need to notify their employers as soon as possible about the need for FMLA leave. They may need to provide documentation about their qualifying circumstances. When someone takes leave as authorized under the FMLA, they should not face termination or other punishments from their employer for using those employment rights.

Understanding the rules that govern leave taken under the FMLA may help workers better care for themselves and their families without endangering their careers.