Two working women shake hands

8 Common FMLA Questions

The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) allows some employees of certain private companies and all public agencies to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave within a single 12-month time frame. Not all employees are eligible, and there are specific reasons you can take leave under the FMLA. Read these common questions and answers to learn more.

When can I take FMLA leave?

You can take FMLA leave for the following medical reasons: 

  • The birth of a child or care of a newborn
  • The placement or care of a newly adopted of foster care child
  • To care for your spouse, child, or parent
  • A serious health condition that makes you unable to perform essential functions of the job
  • Any qualifying exigency arising from the fact that one’s spouse, child, or parent is a covered military member on “covered active duty”

The FMLA also allows employees to take up to 26 workweeks of leave to care for a spouse, child, or parent who is a covered service member with a serious injury or illness.

How much notice do I have to give my employer if I need to take FMLA leave?

Typically, 30 days, if possible. In extenuating circumstances, the employee must provide notice as soon as possible if circumstances were unforeseeable.

How much leave am I entitled to?

For most medical leave, you’re entitled to up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave in a single 12-month period. But if you’re caring for a covered service member with a serious injury or illness, you’re entitled to up to 26 weeks.

How do I know I’m eligible to take leave?

You are eligible if you meet the following requirements:

  • You work for a public agency OR for a private agency that employees at least 50 miles that work within 75 miles of the location
  • You’ve worked for the employer for at least 12 months
  • You worked at least 1,250 hours
  • You work within 75 miles of the location where 50 or more employees are employed

Does the FMLA guarantee paid time off?

No. The FMLA only guarantees 12 unpaid weeks with benefits and a guaranteed job of equal pay and benefits when you return.

Who is considered an immediate family member under FMLA guidelines?

A legal spouse, child, or parent.

Do I have to give my employer my medical records?

You are not required to give your employer medical records, but your employer is entitled to ask for sufficient proof, and may ask for the medical records in order to approve the leave.

Will I lose my job if I take FMLA leave?

Not necessarily. If you take FMLA leave, you are guaranteed a job of equal pay and benefits upon your return. However, it doesn’t have to be the same position you previously held.

Last Updated: April 15, 2015