The Family and Medical Leave Act allows employees to take up to 12 weeks off work due to situations such as a new child, a relative with military leave, a relative with a serious health condition and one’s own serious health condition that gets in the way of performing essential job functions. FMLA applies to employers who have had at least 50 employees working for at least 20 weeks in the current or previous year. The 20 weeks need not be consecutive. While independent contractors do not count, employers are required to include full- and part-time employees, employees on leave and employees who work for more than one employer. The employee putting in for leave must also have worked at the business for at least 12 months and for 1,250 hours during the 12 months prior to the leave. If you are a qualifying employer, it’s important to know about the reasons that cover FMLA leave.
Bonding With a New Arrival in the Family
Many parents, mothers and fathers alike, take time off work when a child joins the family, whether through birth, adoption or foster care. A few key aspects to keep in mind include that leave is not required to be concurrent. For example, a parent may prefer to take three weeks off at a time or to work several 20-hour work weeks as opposed to 40-hour work weeks. An exception exists when both parents work at the same company. In this case, only one parent is eligible for leave related to a new arrival in the family.
In cases of adoption, a worker can elect to take FMLA leave before the adoption goes through if he or she needs to attend court sessions, counseling sessions or undertake travel to another part of the country or overseas.
Employee’s Serious Health Condition
Employees qualify for FMLA leave when they have a health condition that interferes with their ability to do their work for several days; pregnancy is sometimes one such case, like in situations that require bed rest. An employer is allowed to request medical verification of the pregnancy-related complication.
Employees who undergo severe illnesses or chronic health issues might prefer to use FMLA leave to receive treatment. However, the condition must affect more than three consecutive days (they do not have to be business days), and employers are allowed to request medical certification of the condition. Generally, conditions that come with inpatient care, multiple treatments and long-term incapacity are covered, along with some pregnancy or prenatal care situations.
Situations such as cosmetic surgeries do not count unless they are for restorative reasons. However, if complications during or after surgery arise, or if inpatient care is necessary, FMLA leave would likely be deemed reasonable. It is important that employers look at each employee’s unique situation; in a completely healthy person, an upset stomach would probably not count, but in a person who has Crohn’s disease, it well might.
Relative’s Serious Health Condition
Under the FMLA, employees can take time off only to care for spouses, children or parents. Grandchildren and in-laws do not count, nor do common sicknesses such as the flu and headaches. If a common illness does become prolonged, however, it might qualify.
Relative’s Military Leave or Active-Duty Injury
An employee may request FMLA leave to care for a relative who was injured on military active duty. In this case, more relatives are covered than they are for serious health conditions, and some employers may be able to take more time off than in more typical FMLA situations. Employees can also ask for leave to take care of issues stemming from a relative’s military deployment.
Employers should never attempt to diagnose someone or to offer up their own perspective on a family situation, an illness or course of treatment. They should ask doctors to fill out medical forms to certify that a situation qualifies for medical leave.
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