My 7-year-old daughter must have surgery and will require ongoing care for about eight weeks. Can I get time off from work to care for her without fear of losing my job?
The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) requires that all businesses with more than 50 employees and schools of any size ensure the job security of workers faced with the birth or adoption of a child or serious health problems within the family. You are eligible for this protection if you have worked for your employer for at least 1,250 hours (about 25 hours per week) during the past 12 months. Your state may also offer its own family leave law. You have the right to use the version that offers the most benefits.
The Basic Rules
The FMLA entitles employees to take up to 12 workweeks of unpaid leave each year in any of the following four situations:
- The birth and first-year care of a child
- The adoption or foster placement of a child
- The “serious health condition” of a family member, defined as a spouse, parent, or biological, adopted, or foster minor child or stepchild
- The employee’s own serious health condition
This leave is unpaid unless your employer offers it as a worker’s benefit. However, you are allowed to use up any accrued paid vacation, personal, sick, or family leave for any part of the 12-week FMLA allowance.
Health insurance coverage under a group health plan must be maintained at the same level as if you were not on leave. Moreover, the law requires your employer to give you the same or equivalent job — with the same benefits and salary — when you return to work. (Certain highly paid employees are excluded from this protection.)
Before you begin your leave, your employer may ask for a doctor’s certification. Your employer also has the right to request interim certifications from a health care provider during your leave. Before considering FMLA leave, make sure you read your employee handbook and check with your personnel or employee benefits department.