The Family and Medical Leave Act is a federal law that provides employees of qualifying businesses with job protection when they take time off work to recover from illness or care for a loved one. They also maintain health benefits for the leave, which can last up to 12 weeks.

Before scheduling surgery or planning a family, find out whether FMLA covers your job and how it works.

Eligibility requirements

If you work at a government or public agency, private or public K to 12 school or private business or nonprofit organization with at least 50 employees, you may be eligible for FMLA. You must:

  • Work at a company location with at least 50 employees in a 75-mile radius
  • Have worked there for at least 12 months
  • Completed 1,250 or more work hours over the past 12 months

Qualifying circumstances

An eligible employee can take FMLA leave for the following reasons:

  • Caring for a child, spouse or parent who has a serious medical condition
  • Recovering from a serious medical condition
  • Caring for a newborn
  • Recovering from birth of a newborn
  • Caring for an adoptive or foster child placed in his or her home

The FMLA process

You do not necessarily need to take 12 weeks of FMLA consecutively. For example, if you need time off for cancer treatment and visit the doctor for chemotherapy twice a week, those blocks of time may count toward your FMLA time.

In general, you must provide your employer with a 30-day notice of your planned leave using the same procedure you would use to request other types of time off. Give the human resources department enough information to determine whether FMLA applies to your case.

Your employer may require certification of a health condition from the doctor treating you or your loved one. When you return to work, you must receive your original job or an equal position with the same duties, pay and benefits.