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Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) provides eligible employees the right to take extended leave for certain family responsibility and medical reasons.

Qualifying employees can take up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave per year to care for a sick family member or to attend to their own serious health problems, whilst also ensuring that their group health benefits are maintained during the leave. 

FMLA was signed into legislation in 1993 and is designed to help employees find better balance between their work and personal lives.

Who qualifies for FMLA?

To be eligible for FMLA leave an employee must meet the following requirements:

  • they must work for a covered employer - all public agencies, all public and private elementary and secondary schools, and companies with 50 or more employees.

  • they must have worked for their employer for at least 12 months – these 12 months do not have to be consecutive as long as the break in service has lasted less than 7 years.

  • have worked at least 1,250 hours over the past 12 months for the employer.

  • work at a location where the company employs 50 or more employees within 75 miles

What is a qualified FMLA event?

Employees can take 12 weeks of unpaid leave in a 12 month period for the following reasons:

  • birth of a child of an employee

  • placement of a child with an employee for adoption or foster care

  • to care for an immediate family member (spouse, child, or parent) with a serious health condition; or

  • to take medical leave when the employee is unable to work because of a serious health condition.

  • a qualifying emergency if a spouse, child or parent is a military member on covered active duty, or called to active duty status. 

(An employee can take up to 26 workweeks of leave during a single 12-month period to care for a covered service member with a serious illness or injury if the employee is the next of kin of the service member)

Employees may not necessarily be reinstated to their original role. They may be given an equivalent job with equivalent pay, benefits and terms of employment as the role at the time they left to commence FMLA leave. 

Learn about paid parental leave.