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What should I know about the Family Medical Leave Act?

The Family and Medical Leave Act is a piece of federal legislation. It provides eligible employees with the right to take unpaid leave for certain family or medical reasons without the risk of losing their jobs.

For employees, it is important to have a basic understanding of the FMLA to navigate work-life balance effectively.


The FMLA applies to eligible employees working for covered employers. Employers in the private sector must have 50 or more employees. All public agencies and certain educational institutions have coverage as well.

For employees to be eligible, they must have worked for the employer for at least 12 months. They also must have accumulated at least 1,250 hours of service during that time.


Eligible employees can get up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave within a 12-month period under FMLA. They must have a reason covered under the law. These reasons include the birth and care of a newborn, the placement and care of an adopted or foster child, the care of a spouse, child or parent with a serious health condition and an employee’s own serious health condition that affects their ability to perform their job.

FMLA only protects the job. Upon return from leave, the employer must restore the employee to the same or an equivalent position with equivalent pay, benefits and other employment terms. It does not offer paid time off or mandate employers must pay the employee during leave.

Moreover, employees should be aware that during FMLA leave, they must continue making payments for health insurance benefits. If they do not, they could lose coverage, as the law does not require employers to cover those costs.

To initiate FMLA leave, employees generally must provide notice to their employer as soon as possible. They must also comply with the employer’s usual procedures for requesting leave. Employees should ensure they complete all paperwork and provide all documentation requested to avoid delays with leave approval.