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How much unpaid FMLA leave can a worker take?

On Behalf of | Jan 12, 2024 | Employment Law For Workers |

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is a federal law that grants certain employees the right to take unpaid leave from their jobs. People who have worked for a company for at least a year and who experience certain qualifying personal circumstances can ask to take a leave of absence to address family or medical issues. They don’t need to use paid leave and have protection from retaliation, including termination or demotion.

There is a lot of confusion about the FMLA and plenty of misinformation floating around about this crucial employment law. For example, many workers struggle to understand how much leave they can take under the FMLA. Lack of knowledge may deter people from using a law that exists for their protection.

What is the maximum amount of unpaid leave allowed under the FMLA?

Most workers can take 12 weeks of weeks of leave annually

The FMLA allows workers to take leave in three types of scenarios. Workers can qualify for unpaid leave when they have personal medical issues, when family members have major medical issues or when they add a child to their families.

In most cases, workers can qualify for a maximum of 12 weeks of unpaid leave per year. Even if someone experiences multiple qualifying incidents, like back-to-back medical emergencies, typically they can only count on the FMLA to assist them in securing up to 12 weeks of leave. Anything beyond that may lead to professional repercussions.

However, sometimes workers can take more leave than the basic 12 weeks of unpaid leave typically available under the FMLA. If a worker requires time away from work specifically to provide support to a loved one with a medical issue, they can sometimes qualify for a longer leave of absence.

If someone has a spouse, child or parent actively serving in the military and that individual requires medical support, the FMLA may permit up to 26 weeks of leave. Unless the situation involves a military family member, 12 weeks of leave is typically the maximum that someone can obtain each year regardless of how many challenging personal circumstances they experience.

Understanding the rules for the FMLA may help those who require unpaid leave who feel worried about professional consequences associated with exercising their rights. In the event of employer pushback, seeking legal guidance is generally advisable.