Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) FAQs

Get answers to the most common questions on how to coordinate and manage family and medical leaves of absence.

Young family of four

What is the Family and Medical Leave Act?

The Family and Medical Leave Act is a federal law that gives you job-protected, unpaid time off for certain family and medical events. The FMLA was enacted to help employees balance work and home life responsibilities.

If you meet certain eligibility requirements, you may receive up to 12 work weeks of leave for most FMLA-qualifying reasons, including:

  • Your own serious health condition.
  • To care for a parent, spouse, or child with a serious health condition.
  • For the birth, adoption, or foster care placement of a child.
  • Leave relating to a qualified family member’s call to military duty. You may be entitled to up to 26 weeks of FMLA leave to care for an injured military service member.

Depending on which state you work in, you may be entitled to additional rights under a state family medical leave law.

The FMLA is complex, and regulations and requirements may vary from state to state. You should contact your Human Resources representative or consult your HR policies and procedures for more information. More information can also be found at www.dol.gov/agencies/whd/fmla.
 

What does the FMLA provide?

  • For the duration of FMLA leave, your employer must maintain your health coverage under any group health plan. You may be required to continue to pay a part of the premium.
  • Upon return from FMLA leave, most employees will be returned to the job they had when they took leave or given a similar position with equivalent pay, benefits, and other employment terms.
  • Your employer may not interfere with you exercising your FMLA rights.
  • Your employer many not terminate, discriminate, or retaliate against you for exercising your FMLA rights.
     

Who is eligible under the FMLA?

To be eligible under the FMLA, you must:

  • Work in the United States or a U.S. territory.
  • Have at least 12 months of service with your employer. The 12 months do not need to be consecutive. However, service time worked prior to a break in service of seven years or more does not need to be counted.
  • Work 1,250 hours in the 12 months prior to the start of the leave. Only actual hours worked are counted. Sick days, vacation days, paid leave, and holidays are not counted.
  • Work at a worksite employing at least 50 employees within a 75-mile radius.
     

What is considered a “qualifying reason” for FMLA leave?

  • Birth of a child and to care for a newborn child.
  • Adoption or foster care placement of a child with you.
  • To care for a spouse, child, or parent with a serious health condition.
  • Your own serious health condition.
  • For certain activities relating to a family member’s military deployment or short-term leave.
     

How much time can I take under the FMLA?

  • For most FMLA leave reasons, you are entitled to a total of 12 workweeks of leave during a 12-month period. You should contact your HR representative or consult your employer’s FMLA policy for information on how the 12-month period is calculated.
  • For leave to care for a covered military service member with a serious injury or illness related to the military service, you are entitled to a total of 26 workweeks of leave during a 12-month period (measured forward from the date you first use FMLA leave for this reason). During this 12-month period, you cannot take more than a total of 26 workweeks of leave for any FMLA qualifying reason.
  • Your leave entitlement is based on your normal workweek. For example, if you are regularly scheduled to work 40 hours a week, you are entitled to 480 hours of FMLA leave (12 weeks x 40 hours per week).
     

What are the ways I can take family medical leave?

  • Continuous Basis: You are missing work every day for a period of time.
  • Intermittent Basis: You are missing days or hours/minutes of work but not every day.
  • Reduced Schedule Basis: You are working part of your normal work schedule on a regular basis.

You should review your employer’s FMLA policy for more information on taking FMLA leave.
 

Are FMLA leave and short-term disability the same thing?

No. The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is a federal law that gives you job-protected, unpaid time off for certain family and medical events.

Short-term disability (STD) is a plan that pays disability benefits and can cover all or a portion of your income when you are out of work due to an approved, (usually) non-work related illness or injury.

Although different from the FMLA, STD may run concurrently with FMLA depending upon your employer’s plan or policy.
 

Do state family and medical leave laws differ from the federal FMLA?

Yes. Many state laws provide family and medical leave rights that are different from what is provided under the federal FMLA. The federal FMLA sets the minimum standard for what your employer is required to provide in terms of leave rights. State law may provide additional rights.

For example, state leave laws may contain fewer eligibility requirements than the federal FMLA, expanded rights that cover additional family relationships or leave reasons, or longer leave periods.

More information can also be found at www.dol.gov/agencies/whd/fmla.

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