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How to Use FMLA (Family Medical Leave of Absence) When You Need Time Off Work

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The Family Medical Leave of Absence Act of 1993 (FMLA) states that employees are allowed to take job-protected time off of work for family or medical emergencies. An employee who must take time off of work due to a health condition, a sick family member, or to care for a new child is a allowed to take FMLA for up to 12 weeks in one year. This time off is unpaid, does allow the employee to keep his job and come back to it when he has taken care of what he needs to do, so long as he does not stay off more than 12 weeks in a year. Here are some things to know when trying to use FMLA for time off of work so that you can guarantee your job and still take care of emergencies that need tended to.

It is important to know that FMLA time off is unpaid and you must be full time to be covered under this federal law. Part time employees are not eligible or protected in their current job positions. However, while you will not get paid for FMLA time off, the federal law states that employees must still be allowed health insurance and not lose these benefits during the unpaid time off. Employees who have worked for their employer for at least 12 months in a facility (and have worked 1,250 hours), or a company that employs more than 50 people, are generally eligible to apply for FMLA are offered job protection through this law.

FMLA provides job protection to all public agencies, public and private schools, and most large company employees. Those who need time off of work can use FMLA if they are taking time to care for a newborn, caring for a newly adopted child, caring for a sick family member, or have a medical emergency or sickness that causes the employee himself to be unable to work. Women with pregnancy complications are also eligible for the FMLA job protected time off. Employers are not allowed time off with FMLA if they are needing to care for domestic partners (girlfriend, boyfriend, or any other partner not of marriage), recovering from a short term illness such as a cold or the flu, or need time off for routine medical check ups.

Job protection is provided to employees who use FMLA by placing employees back in their original positions for the same pay, giving them a different position of the same pay the employee left at, and reinstating all job benefits the employee had before leaving on FMLA. Employees, on a FMLA, are also protected from any retaliation from the employer they took the medical leave from. Employers must abide by the FMLA rules for employee emergency time off as long as the employee, himself, follows the same rules and comes back to work within a 12 week period or does not take off more time than 12 weeks in a year. A contract is signed by both the employer and employee at the time of taking FMLA to protect both parties.

To apply for an FMLA leave from your work place, simply speak to your boss or manager, or go to the human resources department in your facility. Ask to fill out a medical leave form to take an FMLA as soon as you know you need it. The FMLA can be taken immediately, but it's always a good idea to give your employer as much notice as possible before taking time off. You'll need to explain why you need the FMLA. If it's for a health condition of your own, you may need to provide physician documentation. An employee taking FMLA for any other reason that's eligible will probably only need to provide written instances on the FMLA forms. Do not take time off of work until your FMLA is approved so that you know your job position is protected. Be sure you know the exact date you can start your FMLA before leaving work. Keep copies of every FMLA form you sign for your own records and protection.


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