Last year, more of us than usual needed time off work because we were seriously ill or needed to care for a sick family member. The special provisions the government put in place stopped at the end of last year. Now, if you need time off, you may need to rely on the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA).
What does the FMLA give you?
If eligible, the FMLA allows you to take unpaid time off work. You can use it when you are ill, when you are pregnant or when you adopt. You can also use it when you need to care for a member of your immediate family who is seriously unwell.
Under the act, you are entitled to 12 weeks of unpaid leave per year. That is in addition to your scheduled vacation allowance.
Who qualifies for leave under the FMLA?
Not everyone is entitled to claim time off under the FMLA. It depends on your status and that of your employer. You must have been with your employer for at least one year in total. You must have completed a minimum of 1,250 hours for them during the previous 12 months. Bear in mind that you might have worked a lot less than usual last year.
Most small employers are exempt from having to provide FMLA. It only applies to those with more than 50 staff members. There are some exceptions where it applies regardless of the number of employees, such as schools and public agencies.
If you need time off, the simplest thing is to ask your employer. They may be kind enough to allow it regardless of whether the rules say they have to. If they refuse, you should investigate further. Double-check if you and the company you work for meet the FMLA requirements.