An employee’s health both mental and physical impacts performance and productivity. If either of them is not functioning well, an employee’s motivation and work suffer. 

Such situations call for them to take leaves. But what are these leaves, who is eligible to take them, and what guidelines are there, if any, to follow?

This article will give you a comprehensive outlook on the Family and Medical Leave Act, its guidelines, and requirements. 

What is the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)?

The Family and Medical Leave Act entitle employees working under covered employers to take unpaid leaves for medical reasons. 

The FMLA provides employees with up to 12 weeks of unpaid leaves in a 12-month period. The FMLA came into existence to provide some time off to the employees in times of dire need. Sometimes an employee goes through a serious medical condition that causes hindrance in their work. In some situations, an employee has to take a leave to look after their sick family members. In either case, an employee may not be able to perform at their best, and taking leaves may be the best solution. 

The next few sections are going to take you through some FMLA laws and requirements. 

How does the FMLA work? 

If you are eligible to take an FMLA leave and work for an employer covered by FMLA, then you may take up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave. You can either use all the leaves in one go or split them. 

There are several reasons for which you can choose to take an FMLA leave:

The Guide to FMLA for Businesses

Health Conditions

You can take FMLA to leave when your health condition impedes you from working or you have to look after your spouse, children, parent, or any other family member who is going through a serious ailment. 

Health conditions that are covered by FMLA are:

  • conditions that require an employee to spend a night at a medical care facility either for yourself or a family member 
  • Situations when you are unable to come to work for three consecutive days either because of your own health or of your family member. This usually calls for multiple appointments and follow up with your doctor making it difficult for you to show up at work. 
  • Chronic illnesses may occur occasionally but incapacitate you or your family members for a certain time period. 
  • Pregnancy includes morning sickness and rests prescribed by the doctor. 

Military Family Leave 

The FMLA also entitles eligible employees working for covered employers to take unpaid leaves for family members who are service members with a medical condition or illness. Leave for this purpose is called Military Caregiver Leave

A covered servicemember is someone who works for the Armed Forces and is currently experiencing some illness or undergoing some medical treatment Employees who are spouse, parent, daughter, or next of kin to servicemembers can take up to 26 weeks of unpaid leave to take care of them in their illness. This leave can only be taken during a single 12 month period. 

Family Expansion 

Employees are also entitled to take FMLA leaves when they plan on growing their families. There are several ways of expanding a family such as when a child is born or a child is adopted. The FMLA gives the right to any parent to utilize the leaves. However, these leaves must be taken within a year of the child’s birth or adoption and should be taken in one go unless the employer permits intermittent leaves. 

Who is Eligible For FMLA?

Business Requirements for FMLA 

In the case of businesses with more than 50 employees are covered by FMLA. Government agencies and elementary and secondary schools qualify for FMLA even if they have less than 50. 

Employee Requirements for FMLA 

Employees who work for a covered business have to meet certain criteria to be able to qualify for FMLA. 

  • Firstly, you should have worked for your employer for a period of 12 months. It’s not necessary that these 12 months have to be in one go. Even if an employee has worked for more than 2 months with breaks in between, they will still be covered by FMLA. However, if the break lasts for more than seven years, then FMLA will not come into play. 
  • Secondly, an employee must have worked for a covered employer for 1250 hours in the period of 2 months. 
  • Lastly, an employee should work at a location with at least 50 employees within 75 miles of their worksite. If the case is otherwise then such employees would not qualify for FMLA. 

How Does FMLA Intermittent Leave Work?

FMLA leaves provide an option for employees to take their leaves intermittently. It means employees can take a leave from an hour to two per week instead of for a continuous period of time. Basically, an employee can take an intermittent leave in increments that best suits their needs. 

For instance, an employee can take half a day off in case of a condition that hinders them from working at their full capacity. On the other hand, intermittent leaves, like mentioned, can be taken for less than half a day as well. For instance, an employee can take a leave for as less as 2 hours to take their child for a doctor’s appointment. 

FMLA Intermittent leaves do not require the employer’s approval if they are taken due to a serious medical illness, pregnancy, or illness of a covered servicemember. 

However, for reasons other than these, such as looking after a child does require the employer’s consent. 

The Guide to FMLA for Businesses

What FMLA Guidelines Should Managers Follow?

Sometimes managing FMLA leaves can become a challenge for managers. It is the responsibility of the manager to identify FMLA leave even if the employee doesn’t know if their leave comes under FMLA or not. This becomes difficult when employees take unplanned leaves at unprecedented levels. Nonetheless, managers need adequate training to be able to track FMLA leaves efficiently. 

A few guidelines that avengers can follow are:

Communicate Openly 

Insufficient communication can prove to be disruptive to a business. Managers are responsible for giving out clear explanations of the duration for which the leave is available and should instantly notify the employee when leaves have been exhausted. This is important because it protects the business. 

Avoid misclassification 

It is just not the duty of HR to educate employees on what event qualifies as FMLA leave. The manager is equally responsible and should be able to point out in case the employee doesn’t know or misinterprets. 

Hire a compliance partner 

To avoid compliance issues, a business should hire a compliance partner. Such companies are experts in ensuring that a company is following all laws and fulfilling all requirements 

What Benefits will an Employee Receive While on FMLA Leave?

Health Benefits 

Under the leave of absence, the employee will continue to receive the same health benefits as if they were continuously at work. 

Other Benefits 

For other types of benefits, an employer should follow their policies for employees on leave. If the policy doesn’t call for benefits to continue during the leave, then the employer must follow suit. 

However, upon returning to work, employees are entitled to benefits without any changes. 

FMLA Laws by State

FMLA is the minimum standard which means that states can and provide more options. 



Employers with 75 or more employees who have worked for 1000 hours during the 12 month period before taking a leave.  


Allows up to 16 weeks in 2 years 

Provides leaves to care for

  • Child 
  • Parent and Parents-in-Law
  • Spouse
  • Step-Parent
  • Civil Union Partner 



  • Any private or public employer and employees who have worked for 1000 hours during the 12 month period 


  • Up to 16 weeks of leave for employee’s own health condition 
  • up to 16 weeks of leave to look after the family 

Provides leaves to care for

  • Blood Relatives 
  • marriage
  • legal custody 
  • or anyone an employee has had a committed relationship with.



  • private employers with 100  or more employees
  • Employees who have worked for six consecutive months
  • excludes public employees. 


  • Four weeks per year 
  • Intermittent leaves for childbirth, adoption placement
  • Look after a sick family member
  • Does not apply to an employee’s own health condition. 

Provides leaves to care for

  • Child parent
  • Spouse
  • parent-in-law
  • Grandparent
  • Grandparents in law
  • Stepparent 



  • Private employers with 15 or more employees 
  • Local government and state employers with 25 or more employees


  • Up to 10 weeks in two years 
  • Birth or child adoption 
  • Allows for organ donation leaves 

Provides leaves to care for

  • Child parent, 
  • Spouse,
  • Parent
  • Sibling 
  • Civil union partner 



Employers with 50 or more employees


  • Up to 24 hours per week 
  • Provides leaves to participate in children’s educational activities 
  • Allows accompanying family members to medical appointments 



Employers with 21 or more employees 


  • Up to 6 weeks or adoption or the birth of a child 
  • 10 working days in case of an employee’s family members falling sick
  • Around 40 hours for a medical procedure to donate an organ 

Provides leaves to care for

  • Child
  • Spouse,
  • Parent, 
  • Grandparent 
  • Sibling



  • Businesses  with 25 or more employees 
  • Employees with worked 25 hours per week in the last 180 day 


  • Up to 12 weeks in a year 
  • Additional 12 weeks to look after a child with does not have any serious medical condition
  • Prohibits two family members in the same company to take leaves together 

Provides leaves to care for

  • Child
  • Spouse
  • Parent
  • Grandparent,
  • Grandchild 
  • Parent-in-law

California (unpaid)


  • All public employers 
  • Private employers with 50 or more employees


  • 12 weeks of unpaid family leave 
  • 4 months of maternity leave extended to 28 weeks per year 

Provides leaves to care for

Child, spouse, parent, domestic partner, child or domestic partner, stepparent, grandparent, grandchild, sibling, or parent-in-law.

California (paid)


  • Employees who have worked for 12 months for 1250 hours 


  • Up to 6 weeks of leave to take care of an ill family member 

Provides leaves to care for

  • Child
  • Spouse
  • Parent
  • Registered domestic partner

Apart from the states mentioned above, there are other states as well that have their own FMLA laws and requirements. 


How to Get Paid While on FMLA?

Generally, FMLA does not require unpaid leaves. However, according to the law, the employee can elect to use paid vacation, sick or family leaves for some or all of the FMLA leave. Therefore, when a paid leave is used for reasons covered under FMLA, the leave qualifies as FMLA-protected. 

How to Apply For FMLA Leave?

Employees have to fill an FMLA form to request a leave. Once an employee submits their request, the employer must maintain its copy in their personnel file. 

Can FMLA Be Extended Beyond 12 Weeks?

FMLA can only be extended beyond 12 weeks if an employee has a relative who is a service member and is going through an injury or illness. In that case, the employee will be given 26 weeks of FMLA leave. 

Which Health Conditions Qualify For FMLA Leaves?

Conditions such as pregnancy, a serious health condition mandating an overnight stay at the hospital, or an illness of a family member that incapacitates you from working normally. 

Will My Employer Move Me to a Different Job When I Return Back From FMLA Leave?

When an employee returns to work after FMLA leave regardless of whether the leave was taken in a block or intermittently, they have to be given back their original jobs or something identical. In case when the employee does not return to the same job, then the new identical job must have the following:

  • Same work and shift schedule and should have the same commuting distance as the original job. 
  • Have the same responsibilities, duties, and status. 
  • Require the same set of skills, authority, and effort.
  • Include similar pay, bonus, and overtime pay. 
  • Offer the same benefits such as insurance, health, vacation, life insurance, disability, and educational benefits. 

How Soon Am I to Inform My Employer When I Plan to Take FMLA Leave?

If the need for leave is foreseeable then an employee must inform the employer 30 days in advance. In case the leave is foreseeable in less than 30 days, the employee must notify the employer as soon as it becomes practical. 

In case the leave is not foreseeable at all, the employer must inform the employer as soon as possible. 

What Happens If My Employer Mistreats Me For Taking An FMLA Leave?

Under no circumstances can an employer interfere with an employee’s rights to FMLA leave. In case an employer does so, the employee should immediately contact WHD. When filing a complaint, one should have the following information handy:

  • Name of the employee 
  • Contact details 
  • Name, location, and contact number  of the company 
  • Owner or manager’s name 
  • FMLA leave request circumstances and the employer’s response. 

What Happens If an Employee Is Not Eligible for FMLA?

If an employee is not eligible for FMLA, the employer must inform the employee stating at least one reason. 

Should Employees Choose Intermittent Leave or a Reduced Work Schedule?

It totally depends on the medical condition of an employee. If the health condition requires an employee to take intermittent leave, the employer must grant it. Alternatively, the employee can also go for reduced work schedules whereby the employee’s daily or weekly schedule is reduced. 

However, leave to look after a newborn or a foster child can only be taken intermittently and must wrap up within 12 months after the placement or birth. 

Can An Employer Deny FMLA Leave?

If the employer requires a medical certification then the employee must provide it within 15 calendar days along with bearing the cost of acquiring the certificate. In case an employee fails to do so, the employer may deny FMLA leave.