Job security can be a major issue for working moms and dads who have a medical situation that requires extended care. Family medical leave may allow you to take the time you need without risking your job or your benefits. Depending on your situation, you may be able to take family medical leave if someone in your family needs you to assist with health care responsibilities.
The Family Medical Leave Act went into effect as a federal law in 1993. The law aims to protect working family members from discrimination in the workplace in the event of a medical situation within a family unit. The original law required certain employers to hold an employee’s position, or an equivalent to it, for the employee up to the full term of the act, or 12 work weeks. Under FMLA, employers cannot withhold a raise or other benefits based on an employee taking leave. In 2008 and 2010, lawmakers approved clarifications to the law to expand certain qualifications and to better define the family relationships covered under the act.
Prior to the FMLA, employees who had to deal with medical situations often had to choose between their jobs and their families. Choosing family over work left people with no medical coverage or coverage beyond what they could pay without a steady source of income. When FMLA went into effect, it opened the doors for more mothers to enter the workforce without the stress of job security in the event of a medical situation.
The FMLA offers job security to individuals who meet their employer’s qualifications for family medical leave. Standard FMLA qualifications may require you to work for a company for at least 1,250 hours in a 12-month period prior to taking the leave, according to the U.S Department of Labor. You may be eligible for a 12-week family medical leave if you have or adopt a baby, have an immediate family member (child, spouse or parent) with a serious illness or medical condition or personally have a medical condition. In certain situations, service members may qualify for a 26-week family medical leave. Additionally, employers may offer family medical leave as a component of their benefit packages.
While family medical leave ensures you’ll have a job waiting for you, it does not guarantee you will return to the same job. Your employer can appoint you to an equivalent position. To be equivalent, the job must remain at the same level of pay, have the same benefits and require the same conditions. However, employers may change your department or transfer you to a position with different job responsibilities. Another misconception is that family medical leave pays your salary or wage during the absence from work. This is not the case. FMLA allows unpaid leave. Another misconception is that the FMLA only covers women. Men can apply for family medical leave, too.
In order to enact a family medical leave, you must follow your employer’s guidelines. This may include requesting leave 30 days prior to the date you need the leave to begin, according to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management. Employers often have the right to require proof of a medical condition. They may request a note from a doctor or another type of medical certification before approving the leave.