There are certain life events that impact a person’s ability to work. Some of these are joyous events, like welcoming a new baby into his or her life. Other events are not so positive, such as a diagnosis of a serious illness, an injury caused by an accident, or the need to care for an ill loved one. Because these life events can happen suddenly, employees often require time off from work at a moment’s notice. With the help of the Family and Medical Leave Act, employees are able to take a set amount of time off from work without the fear of losing their job during their time away.
FMLA allows for an employee to take up to 12 weeks off for certain life events. This includes the birth, adoption or fostering of a child, time needed to care for a spouse, child or parent with a serious health condition, time needed to care for the employee’s own serious health condition that makes him or her unable to perform the essential functions of their job, or when a spouse, child or parent is a military member on or called to active duty and the employee needs time to address matters related to this. Additionally, FMLA allows for up to 26 weeks if the family member that is a military member is seriously injured or ill and the employee is caring for them.
In most cases, this leave is taken in a solid block of time. However, it is possible to take intermittent FMLA leave. This means that for a qualifying reason listed above, an employee can get a reduced schedule or call off as needed. However, employers may, but are not required to, provide intermittent leave for a qualifying birth, adoption or foster care placement.
With intermittent leave, there is a concern for abuse. This often causes employers to institute a stay-put rule, which means that they are expected to stay home or attend medical treatments and nothing else in cases where an employee is ill. In some cases, an employer will seek re-certification to understand if intermittent leave is still necessary.
Using FMLA to spend time at home after the birth or adoption of a child, or to recover after a surgery or a serious illness, is very beneficial. Nonetheless, using this leave comes with restraints and requirements. Thus, it is important that employees understand how FMLA works, and if an issue arises, such as allegations of abuse, how to resolve these problems.