When can you ask to take FMLA leave from your job?

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is one of the most important federal protections for employees. This law requires that employers allow their staff members to take unpaid leave in certain situations. 

Workers can usually request up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave even if their employer does not offer any kind of paid time off. Before you make a request to your employer, it is important that you understand when you qualify for FMLA leave. 

What are the requirements for a worker to take unpaid leave? 

They need a long-term history at the company

Generally, you need to have worked for your employer. Workers who have just accepted a job with a new company likely will not qualify for FMLA leave. You need to have worked at least 1,250 hours in the last year to qualify.

The company must be big enough to handle the absence

Losing a full-time staff member for multiple weeks when a company only has five employees would be a potentially unbearable hardship. On the other hand, when a company has dozens of workers, they won’t have much difficulty moving someone else into a position to cover for someone who requires a temporary leave of absence. Typically, a company needs to have at least 50 workers for the FMLA to apply. 

The situation must justify the requested leave

As the name implies, the FMLA only applies to situations where people need time off for personal medical reasons or for family purposes. A leave of absence to undergo treatment or recover from surgery would have protection under the FMLA. 

So too would time off after the birth of a child or an adoption. Workers can also take time off to care for family members with medical issues, although generally only spouses, parents and children will qualify someone for leave under the FMLA. 

Learning more about how employment laws protect you can help you advance your career while still taking care of your family.