Taking a leave of absence from work: What you need to know
Deciding to take a leave of absence from work is a big decision that requires planning and communication with your employer. Whether it's for personal or medical reasons, it can be overwhelming. Knowing your rights and responsibilities can help ensure a smooth process.
Here are five important things to keep in mind when considering a leave of absence, with an emphasis on employer-provided paid leave and the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).
Know Your Company's Policies
The first step in taking any leave of absence is to familiarize yourself with your company's leave policies. Policies can vary from one organization to another. Some employers offer paid absence of leave, such as vacation or sick days, while others may provide unpaid leave or follow FMLA guidelines. Check your employee handbook or speak with HR to understand the specific policies that apply to your situation.
If you or one of your family members is dealing with a serious health condition and you need to take a leave of absence, you may be eligible for FMLA. FMLA allows qualified employees to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave in 12 months.
To qualify for FMLA, you must: (1) work for an FMLA covered employer for at least 12 months total, and (2) accumulated 1,250 service hours over the past year.
Notification and Documentation
It's essential to notify your employer as soon as possible when you know you'll need a leave of absence. If your organization has an online portal for leave requests, follow their specific absence management login procedures. This may involve providing written notice and medical certification.
Understanding Paid Leave Options
If you have access to paid leave benefits, such as vacation or sick days, it's important to know how to use them. Some organizations allow employees to use accrued paid leave to cover part or all their time off, which can help lessen the financial impact of unpaid leave. Again, check your employer's policies to determine how paid leave can be applied to your situation.
While you're on leave, stay in touch with your employer. Provide updates on your recovery or expected duration of leave. Maintaining open and honest communication can help your employer plan for your return and ensure a smooth transition back to work when you're ready.
Taking a leave of absence from work, whether paid or unpaid, is a decision that should be approached with consideration and adherence to your employer's policies. Knowing your rights, understanding FMLA eligibility, and leveraging any available paid leave can help make the process less stressful. Effective communication throughout your leave is key to maintaining a positive relationship with your workplace while attending to your personal or medical needs.
This blog is up to date as of October 2023 and has not been updated for changes in the law, administration or current events.