Maybe you’ve heard of coworkers or friends taking long periods of leave from work for family emergencies or major life transitions – but maybe you’re still wondering what exactly qualifies for using your benefits under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA)? You’re not alone!
According to Nolo, not every employee is eligible for leave. An employee must have worked for a covered employer for at least a year, and at least 1,250 hours during the previous year, at a facility that has at least 50 employees within a 75-mile radius, to be covered.
Employees may only take leave for:
- the birth, adoption, or foster care placement of a child
- the employee’s own serious health condition
- a family member’s serious health condition
- qualifying exigencies arising out of a family member’s military deployment, or
- a family member’s serious injury or illness arising from military service.
Some of these reasons appear straightforward, such as the birth of your child, but other reasons, such as “serious health condition” might sound vague. Let’s look at the specifics.
Birth, Adoption, or Foster Care Placement
FMLA leave doesn’t have to commence once your child is born or adoption papers are finalized. You are eligible to take leave in preparation for your child’s arrival. Also, FMLA leave may only be taken to prepare or care for a child you are legally the parent of. FMLA law doesn’t allow for taking leave because of a loved one’s child. According to FindLaw, The birth of a child qualifies for FMLA leave, and a mother may use FMLA time off for prenatal care or continuing care once the child is born. A father may also use FMLA leave to care for a newborn child, or to provide care for his incapacitated spouse due to the pregnancy or childbirth.
Parental leave does not have to run concurrently. Upon an employer’s approval, parents may choose to spread their 12-week leave out over the course of a year by taking a few weeks at a time or by reducing their normal work hours in a given week (known as “intermittent parental leave”). However, when both parents are employed with the same company, only one parent may qualify for pregnancy or child-birth related leave.
Sometimes the pregnancy itself may qualify for FMLA as a serious health condition, especially when a doctor places the employee on bed rest during any point within a pregnancy. Employees who request pregnancy-related leave may be required to verify through medical certification.
Adoption or Foster Care
The placement of a child for adoption or foster care is a qualifying reason under the FMLA. Employees may take up to a 12-week leave up to one year after a child is placed through adoption or foster care with an employee.
Adoption leave may also occur before the actual placement or adoption of a child if an employee’s absence from work is required — such as to attend counseling sessions, appear in court, or travel to another country to complete the adoption.
What Qualifies as a “Serious Health Condition” Under FMLA Law?
According to FindLaw, FMLA defines a “serious health condition” as any illness, injury, impairment, or physical or mental condition that involves either inpatient care or continuing treatment by a health care provider.
Ordinary illnesses such as the common cold, flu, earaches, upset stomachs and headaches do not normally qualify for FMLA, unless deemed by a doctor to be serious due to other health issues.
Employees who are unable to perform their essential job duties because of a serious illness or chronic health condition may request leave to treat the condition or receive prolonged care while under a doctor’s supervision.
FMLA regulations require a “period of incapacity” of more than three consecutive calendar days. If an employee’s condition requires two or more visits to a health care provider for the same condition, those visits must occur within 30 days of the first day the employee became incapacitated.
Under FMLA regulations, the treatment of a chronic health condition must occur at least twice in any calendar year, and employees may also be required to show medical certification.
Who Qualifies as Your Family Member Under FMLA Law?
According to FindLaw, FMLA-related leave can only apply to conditions regarding an employee’s spouse, child, or parent.
Military Qualifications for FMLA
According to FindLaw, care of a family member who was injured while on active duty in the military may qualify for FMLA. Employees may also request to handle certain matters arising out of a family member’s deployment during FMLA leave.
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