In addition to sick time and PTO, employees at certain organizations are also entitled to additional types of leave. Thanks to the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) eligible employees can take up to 12 weeks of leave to deal with medical conditions, family caregiving responsibilities, or new parenthood. Regardless of why an employee might be requesting a leave of absence, it’s important to consider these factors before submitting an application.
1. Eligibility is important
In order to qualify for Family and Medical Leave (FML), an individual needs to have worked for their employer for at least 12 months and worked a minimum of 1,250 hours over the past 12 months. This means that anyone who has spent less than a year at the company is automatically ineligible for this type of leave. Newer employees can still consider applying for voluntary leave, but the employer will approve a leave application at its own discretion. In order to offer FML, the employee needs to work at a location where the company employs 50 or more employees within 75 miles. This means that some small businesses or start-ups may not qualify for FML. Even if someone is eligible for FML, it’s important to note that while the law requires companies to give time off, it does not require that the time is paid.
2. Team functioning should be the focus
It’s not possible to provide professional guidance or a handover in every scenario – especially if an employee is seriously ill or has had an accident. However, if they are able to plan their leave in advance it’s a great idea to create a detailed handover to help colleagues manage during the interim. An employee may also have a meeting to allot tasks and address frequently asked questions. This helps the team, but it also helps the employee since they are less likely to have to field anxious calls and queries during their leave, or come back to a pile of work.
3. Documentation is important
Taking a leave of absence on grounds of illness or injury means that an employee will likely need to provide the necessary certifications to their employer. They may also need to provide a letter from their healthcare provider that supports the leave of absence request. Such documents may also be needed for those who are taking a break to fulfil caregiving responsibilities.
4. Adequate notice is essential
Employees who know that they are planning to take a leave of absence should inform their employer 30 days in advance. This is a requirement of the FMLA in situations where the need for leave is foreseeable. Giving proper notice helps the employer prepare for an employee’s absence and allows them to hire or train any substitutes if need be.
5. Knowing the company policy is crucial
Employees considering a leave of absence should consult their handbook or company policy guide. Since the duration and requirements for leave may vary from state to state, it’s important to get familiar with the specific guidelines and rules that are set in place. For the most part an employee’s job and salary are protected by law; however, they may need to make arrangements to continue to pay their portion of the premiums for employer-sponsored benefits such as health insurance and life insurance since the employee may not receive their salary during the leave.
Source: Northwestern Mutual
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