Are you wondering how to take a leave of absence from work? Learn more about some of the most important points you must remember when taking a leave of absence from work.
What Is a Leave of Absence?
A leave of absence is an option for employees who need to take time off work because they are experiencing circumstances that are out of the ordinary. Specifically, a leave of absence is different from paid time off (PTO), vacation time, and regular sick leave. Vacation time and sick leave are generally short-term absences, while a leave of absence is usually a long, possibly indefinite, absence.
For example, there are some employees who may take an extended leave because they have recently had a baby or they might have to take care of a family member who is seriously ill. Do not forget that if you are interested in taking a leave of absence from work, you may want to use a leave of absence letter template to help you explain your situation. Your employer may also use a leave of absence agreement.
Types of Leave of Absence
There are different reasons why someone might need to take a leave of absence from work. Generally, the reasons for a leave of absence from work can be divided into mandatory and voluntary reasons.
Mandatory Leave of Absence
A leave of absence that is governed by federal law is considered mandatory. Generally, mandatory leaves of absence are governed by the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
Under FMLA, employees may be eligible for up to 12 weeks off without pay. Then, when that employee returns to work, they are generally restored to their former position or transitioned to an equivalent role. In some situations, employees might be entitled to extended leaves as collectively bargained by union representation.
Mandatory leave of absence reasons
- Medical leaves of absence governed by FMLA and ADA
- Jury duty
- Leaves for military service
- Caring for a spouse, child, or family member who is ill
- Adoption of a new child or foster care child
Voluntary Leave of Absence
An extended leave of absence that is voluntary is generally up to the discretion of the employer. The employer is under no obligation to demand a voluntary leave of absence, but it could be a perk of the job. Furthermore, this type of leave does not provide the same protection as leaves of absence covered by the ADA or FMLA. That means that employees may not be able to return to the same position when the leave of absence ends.
Voluntary leave of absence reasons
- Some employees may want to take a sabbatical.
- Employees might need time off because they are moving.
- Employees might want to go back to school to finish a degree.
- Employees may need to take some time off for their mental health.
- There might be a serious death in the family.
- Employees might be going through a divorce.
What is the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)?
The Family and Medical Leave Act, usually shortened to FMLA, is a labor law passed in 1993. Employers who have a certain number of employees are required to provide those employees with unpaid time off for serious family issues.
This act also provides employees access to continuing insurance coverage even if they do not continue to draw a salary while away from the company. The entire purpose of this act is to provide families with time to deal with emergencies without worrying about whether their job will be there when they come back.
This program is governed by the US Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division (DOL-WHD). Under this act, the workplace demands are balanced with the needs of families, promoting an environment of economic security and stability. Employers may have a legitimate interest in filling an open position while an employee is away, but the employee also deserves to be protected while dealing with a legitimate family concern.
Under this law, employees can take up to 12 weeks off for various reasons. After 12 weeks, the employee can return to the company, but if their former position is no longer available, they are required to be offered an equivalent position with the company. This includes a job with equal pay and status.
What conditions qualify for FMLA?
To qualify for FMLA leave, the employee has to work for a company that has at least 50 employees that work within a 75-mile radius of the work site. Furthermore, the employee must have worked at least 1,250 hours for the company during the past 12 months.
Eligible reasons to take FMLA include:
- A qualifying military emergency
- The birth of a new child
- Bringing in a new child who has been adopted
- Welcoming a new foster child into the home
- Providing care for an immediate family member who has gotten sick
- An employee who has developed a serious health condition
How Should You Ask for a Leave of Absence From Work?
If you’re interested in asking for a leave of absence from work, there are several steps to follow.
1. Always Check Your Company Policies First
Review the protections given for a mandatory leave of absence. Then, look at the types of voluntary leave that are granted, whether leaves are paid or unpaid, and how long you are allowed to be away from work. Your employment contract could also contain details you need to be aware of.
2. If You Have a Supervisor, You Should Speak to Your Boss
Make sure your boss is aware of your situation ahead of time. You might need your supervisor to back up your reasoning when you approach the company to ask for leave. Try to get everything in writing.
3. Submit a Formal Request in Writing
Use a leave of absence letter to specify the type of leave you need, how much time off you will need, and indicate a specific date for your return. Always ask the company if you need to take any further steps before submitting your request.
4. Try to Give as Much Notice as Possible
Even though emergencies may come up from time to time, giving your company more notice can increase the chances of you getting your request approved.
Leave of Absence Example
Below, you can see an example of a letter of leave of absence:
Tips for Asking for a Leave of Absence From Work
A few tips to follow when asking for a leave of absence include:
- Always ask if there is anything to do to help make the transition easier for the person picking up your duties while you are away.
- Give concrete start and end dates for your leave of absence.
- Think about whether you can continue to work at home even if you cannot come into the office.
- In addition to informing your boss and supervisor, always inform your colleagues if you are taking a leave of absence.
Make the process as easy as possible for the company if you take a leave of absence.
Reasons To Take Leave of Absence From Work
There are several reasons someone might need to take a leave of absence from work.
Good Reasons to Take Leave of Absence From Work
There are several good reasons to take a leave of absence from work. Some of the most common examples include the birth of a new trial, adopting a new child, providing care for a family member who is seriously ill, or taking a leave of absence to serve in the military.
If you have developed a serious health condition yourself, you can also take a leave of absence from work that is protected by FMLA. If you want to take a leave of absence that is protected by FMLA, you may need to have documentation from a healthcare provider or other regulatory authority, such as your military commander (if you are taking a leave for military reasons).
Bad Reasons to Take Leave of Absence From Work
On the other hand, there are some bad reasons to take a leave of absence from work. For example, if you simply want extra vacation time and to travel the world, that is not a good reason to request a voluntary leave of absence.
Or, if you try to tell your employer that you can’t come to work for a long time because your car is going to take several weeks to get fixed, that is not a good reason for a leave of absence. You should try to find an alternative mode of transportation.
In general, if you are requesting a leave of absence because of a bad situation you created, your employer will probably be hesitant to give you a voluntary leave.
Leave of Absence FAQs
How long can you take a leave of absence from work?
If you take a mandatory leave of absence covered by FMLA, you have up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave. If you have been granted a voluntary leave of absence by your employer, it is up to your employer’s discretion. It may be longer than 12 weeks, or it might be shorter than 12 weeks.
Do employees continue to get employee benefits while on leave?
If you take a mandatory leave of absence from work, FMLA allows you to continue to carry the insurance policy you have through your employer. If you are taking a voluntary leave of absence from work, you generally get access to your benefits, but it is up to the discretion of your employer.
Are employees paid during a leave of absence from work?
No, generally, employees are not paid during a leave of absence from work. Under FMLA, your leave is unpaid. If you are taking a voluntary leave, it will be up to the discretion of your employer, but it is generally unpaid.
Can you take a leave of absence for mental health?
Yes, you can take a leave of absence for mental health. Serious mental health crises qualify under FMLA. You will need documentation from your healthcare provider to get an approved leave of absence for this reason.