How Does the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) Work?

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), a federal law passed in 1993, allows employees to take leave from work for an illness, or to take care of a family member without fear of losing their job. This leave is unpaid, but you will still be able to keep your employer-based health insurance during this time; before taking the time off you need, though, it is important to fully understand your rights under FMLA, and how you can protect your job and health insurance.

How FMLA Works

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Under the Family and Medical Leave Act, eligible employees are entitled to 12 work weeks of leave in a 12-month period. The leave is unpaid; the law is only meant to protect your job while you are sick or are taking care of a family member. That being said, if you have accrued paid time off, you might be able to use that paid leave while on FMLA leave; depending on your employer, you might be able to use your vacation or sick days, as well as any other type of paid leave your employer offers. You should double check with your employer about using this time for FMLA before taking leave.

Taking FMLA Leave

You are only eligible under FMLA to take time off in certain circumstances, which include:

  • To recover from a serious health condition that can prevent you from fulfilling your job duties.
  • The birth of a child.
  • To care for your newborn within one year of birth.
  • Placement of a child for adoption or foster care.
  • To help care for an immediate family member with a serious health condition.
  • To recover from your own personal health condition. 

President Biden’s American Rescue Plan (ARP) also added the Covid-19 vaccine as an optional addition to the FMLA: “Congress extended the current tax credits for voluntary sick leave pay to Sept. 30, 2021, and added a new reason for leave. Now, workers may be eligible for time off to receive the COVID-19 vaccine or if they are having side effects related to receiving the vaccine,” according to a guide on the FMLA during the coronavirus pandemic from U.S. News & World Report.

Which Employers Does the FMLA Apply To?

Some companies are not bound by the FMLA: it only applies to employers who have at least 50 employees, or that had 50 employees for at least 20 weeks of the previous year. In addition, even if the law applies to your employer, it might not apply to you: you need to have worked for the company for one year and for at least 1,250 hours during the current year in order to be protected by the law.

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Your job is secured while on FMLA leave, but not your job title.

Your Exact Job Title Might Change

The FMLA requires that your employer reinstate you as an employee once you come back from your FMLA leave, but the law does not require your employer to give you your old position back. According to the Department Of Labor (DOL), “an employee must be restored to the employee’s original job, or to an equivalent job with equivalent pay, benefits, and other terms and conditions of employment.”

FMLA Benefits

While you are out on FMLA leave, employer-provided medical coverage should continue, but if your health insurance premiums are usually paid through payroll deductions, your health insurance could  be in jeopardy while you are out on leave and not getting paid. In order to avoid losing your insurance, you should make sure one of two things happens: either you can arrange with your employer to have them pay your share of the premium payments and then recover the payments from you once you return, or you can speak to your human resources department and arrange to pay your premiums through them. If you don’t do either of these things, your health insurance will be terminated, so make sure you speak to your employer before your leave, so you can be sure to maintain your coverage.

The FMLA was passed to ensure you will still have a job to return to if you need to take time off to care for yourself or a loved one. It offers some peace of mind, but there are still some things to consider before taking the time off, especially how you intend to pay for your health insurance while you are not receiving a paycheck. If you cannot afford your health insurance, and your employer will not pay for your share, your medical insurance will be terminated – but you will have the opportunity to find a new plan, and EZ can help. We will compare plans in your area and find a plan that meets your health and financial needs, at no cost to you. To get free instant quotes, simply enter your zip code in the bar above, or to speak to an agent, call 888-350-1890.

About The Author:
Cassandra Love

With over a decade of helpful content experience Cassandra has dedicated her career to making sure people have access to relevant, easy to understand, and valuable information. After realizing a huge knowledge gap Cassandra spent years researching and working with health insurance companies to create accessible guides and articles to walk anyone through every aspect of the insurance process.

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