How to Prepare for FMLA: A Step-by-Step Guide

pregnant woman sitting at desk with hand on glasses and stomach
Changes to your family can be very stressful. Taking time off can add to that stress. Even if the reason you’re taking leave is due to a happy event like the birth of a baby, you don’t want to be distracted by worrying about whether your job is secure or not. If you’re considering FMLA leave, here are a few things you can do to prepare yourself and your employer.

Know Your Eligibility

Under the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA), you are eligible for up to 12 work weeks (unpaid) job-protected leave in one twelve month period if you are:

  • fighting or recuperating from a serious illness
  • helping your parent, spouse or child convalesce
  • pregnant or caring for a newborn child
  • adopting or fostering a child
  • caring for an injured service member in the family

You must have worked for your employer for at least 12 months (although they needn’t be consecutive) and worked for at least 1,250 hours within that time. Your company must employ at least 50 people within a 75-mile radius of your job site.

Understand Your Employer’s Offerings

Once you establish you are eligible for leave under the FMLA, you’ll need to talk to your human resources department because you need to give the employer notice of your need for leave and ultimately, your leave will need to be approved. Timing is important. Some employers will give you options about how you can use it and the underlying condition and medical documentation will further define when and how you use your leave. You may be able to work and take only intermittent leave (for example, when a condition flares up), rather than stay off work full-time. You may be able to use vacation or other paid time off during the leave period.The FMLA provides a general framework but your employer may have special rules that do not interfere with your rights.

You may need to make arrangements to continue healthcare coverage through direct payment. Make sure you have an in-depth conversation with your HR person so there are no surprises later.

Fill Out Your Paperwork

There are a number of FMLA forms required before your leave can be approved. The more attention you pay to filling out your paperwork, the more seamless the approval process will be.

Also, keep detailed records of all of your interactions. Take all paperwork with you when you go on leave, including emails, texts, or other office communications just in case you lose access to them.

Finalize Your Plans

After your leave is approved, finalize your leave date (as much as possible), providing your employer with an idea of when it will start. If you have an exact date, provide one as early as possible so a plan can be put in place. Your employer will appreciate it, and so will your colleagues who may be performing your job duties while you’re gone.

Create a list of your job duties and how you do them to make the temporary transition as positive as possible. Remember your intention is to come back someday, so you want to retain good employee and peer relations.

If you’re considering going out on FMLA leave, it’s not necessary to secure the help of an attorney. However, if you were turned down for leave or you were terminated immediately before taking leave, you may have a claim that your employer violated the law by interfering with your FMLA rights or by retaliating against you for exercising those rights. Contact the employment attorneys at Wenzel Fenton Cabassa, P.A. for a better understanding of your rights under the Family Medical Leave Act.

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