Dealing with your own health problems is stressful enough, especially if you’re an employee trying to work full time. However, most employers understand the necessity of taking time off in such a circumstance. But what if a member of your immediate family is having medical troubles and needs help? This is part of what is addressed by the Family and Medical Leave Act.

Which employees are covered?

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) was put in place in 1993. It is a federal law, so most employers have to follow it, but there are some exceptions. An employer needs to have had at least 50 employees at least 20 weeks to fall under the FMLA. In addition, an employee must have worked for the employer for at least a year before taking sick leave under the FMLA.

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FMLA guarantees

The Family and Medical Leave Act guarantees all eligible employees up to 12 weeks of leave in a 12 month period. This leave can be taken to go care for an ailing family member, but the leave is completely unpaid. The leave can also be taken to care for a newborn, or in certain cases of military deployment.

The possibility of paid leave

While FMLA is unpaid in itself, there is the possibility to get some paid leave from your employer while taking the sick leave guaranteed by the act. There is no federal mandate for this, but if you’ve accumulated paid sick time during your employment, you should be able to use it at the same time as your leave under the FMLA.

Proof of medical condition

Sadly, your word alone is usually not enough to take FMLA leave. While there is no law requiring employees to show proof of their reason for requesting sick leave, there is one that allows employers to ask for medical certification of the condition from your health care provider. So, whether or not you will have to provide proof of medical condition is up to your specific employer.

Your job after sick leave

The FMLA requires your employer to give you employment when you come back from taking leave. However, it does not have to be the same job! According to the FMLA, your employer only needs to give you the same job or one with “equivalent” pay, benefits, and other terms of employment.