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How to Take a Leave of Absence in a Federal Job

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Employment by the federal government provides employees with a variety of entitlements that they may use if the need arises. The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) provides an employee with at least 12 months of service up to 12 weeks of guaranteed time off during a 12-month period. When you must take a leave of absence in a federal job, follow the protocol carefully to take FMLA leave or another leave of absence.

Speak with your supervisor about taking an unpaid FMLA leave at least 30 days prior to your desired leave date or as soon as you determine you wish to take a leave of absence. Acceptable reasons for using an FMLA leave include childbirth and caring for a newborn baby, adopting a child, caring for an immediate family member with a health condition and receiving treatment for your own health condition. You can also use an FMLA leave while you wait for approval of a request for a disability retirement.

Complete Form SF-71 to request your FMLA leave. Enter the dates and the purpose of the leave. If you have annual or sick leave that you wish to use to offset the leave without pay, check the appropriate boxes. Sign your name, date the form and submit it to your supervisor.

Speak with your supervisor about taking a leave of absence if the reason does not fall under the acceptable reasons for FMLA, or if you must extend the leave past the 12 weeks allowed by FMLA. Other reasons for a leave of absence may be for education or military service. The duration of the leave may vary from less than six months to more than 12 months. The granting of the leave of absence is subject to supervisor, department head or director of operations approval. As long as you return to work promptly when the approved leave of absence ends, you will return to the same position you held or a similar position.


If you have annual leave accrued, you may be able to apply your annual leave to your leave of absence to receive compensation for at least part of your leave of absence.


If you do not return to work after your leave of absence ends, the federal employer may place you on an “unapproved leave without pay” status during an investigation into the reason for your failure to return to work. The employer may provide you with reasonable accommodation to help you return to work, or the employer may terminate you if you do not respond to or participate in the process.


Kathryn Hatter is a veteran home-school educator, as well as an accomplished gardener, quilter, crocheter, cook, decorator and digital graphics creator. As a regular contributor to Natural News, many of Hatter's Internet publications focus on natural health and parenting. Hatter has also had publication on home improvement websites such as Redbeacon.