There are generally two kinds of leave available to workers in the United States. The first form of leave depends on your employment situation. Employer-sponsored leave might be part of your benefits package. You may be able to accrue vacation time, sick leave or general paid time off based on both your attendance record and how long you’ve been with the company.
The second kind of leave for workers is unpaid leave available to them under federal law. There are approximately five situations in which you might need to take leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act.
- You have just had a child
Giving birth is a physically challenging process, and it’s one that you don’t even get to recover from because you immediately have to assume responsibility for the needs of the child that you just had.
The FMLA gives workers the right to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave after the birth of a child so that they can recover from the strain of childbirth and bond with their new baby.
- You recently adopted or secured a foster placement
The FMLA recognizes the importance of bonding when adding a new family member to your household. If you have a foster child placed with your family or if you adopt, you can also potentially ask for those 12 weeks of unpaid leave to adjust to the changes in your household and help your new family member acclimate.
- You need to recover after an injury or illness
The FMLA also protects you when you need to take time off of work to heal because of a serious illness or injury. Even after you run out of paid time-off benefits, FMLA leave can give you a chance to fully recuperate before you have to get back on the job.
- A spouse, parent or child needs help
If your immediate family members suffer a medical event that requires constant care, like a stroke or cancer, you can potentially take unpaid leave in order to take care of your loved one until they heal.
- You may have extended leave options to care for a military family member
If a member of your immediate family is a military service member who suffers an injury or illness, you can potentially take up to 26 weeks of unpaid leave to provide care for them.
It’s important to know that both your employer and your personal employment history must meet certain criteria in order for you to qualify for FMLA leave. If you do qualify but your employer refuses to leave or if they retaliate against you for taking it, you may need to talk with an attorney about this violation of your rights.