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FMLA 101 – What Expecting Parents Need to Know About the Family Medical Leave Act

Updated on January 18, 2008
Photo: Mahalie, Flickr
Photo: Mahalie, Flickr

The FMLA was designed and passed so that people could take care of their families without the fear of losing their jobs, but it has become an important tool for new parents. The FMLA guarantees you come back to your job at the same position, or if that position must be filled in your absence or is otherwise not available, you are offered one substantially equal in pay, benefits, and responsibility. Benefits are also protected and whatever you had when you left must be reinstated upon your return. They also need to maintain your health insurance for the time you are gone.

Important Facts About FMLA - Are You Covered?

  • Smaller employers are NOT bound by the FMLA. Only employers with over 50 employees in a 50 mile radius must follow these rules.
  • Employees must have been employed for at least a year AND at least 1250 hours. If you're part-time you may not meet this threshold.
  • The leave is UNPAID.
  • You can't be a KEY employee, which is defined as someone who earns in the top 10% of all the employees in a 75 mile radius. For example, the district manager of a chain of retail stores is probably exempt.
  • You don't need to take all your 12 weeks at once, but they must be used within a year.
  • FMLA leave can begin before your baby is born, for example if you need to go on bed rest.

Parental Leave Not Just For Moms

It's important to note that the FMLA is not maternity leave. The FMLA is not just for mothers. New fathers are equally entitled to take twelve weeks off work to care for a new baby. In fact, many employers are now offering paid paternity leave as a benefit in addition.

Planning Parental Leave

Employers may offer a paid maternity leave, vacation, or short-term disability insurance that can be combined to provide some income during the time away from work. Make sure you know your benefits. Some policies offer more paid time off if you have to have a C-Section.

Parents need to take into consideration the work situation and benefits of each person to make the most of parental leave. Keep in mind that while using vacation, sick days, and other benefits to create a paid time off, these typically are not going to extend your 12 weeks. That's the maximum you can be away and have your employer be held to the FMLA. That said, many employers are happy to give you extra time off if you ask. It depends on your situation. Just make sure to get any agreements outside of 12 weeks in writing!

Need to Know More?

The Department of Labor answers your FAQ here.




Submit a Comment

  • Lela Davidson profile imageAUTHOR

    Lela Davidson 

    10 years ago from Bentonville, Arkansas

    izettl,Thanks for that very important point!

  • izettl profile image

    Laura Izett 

    10 years ago from The Great Northwest

    This all great information- glad it's out there. I have an HR background and there are many stipulations to FMLA so it's important to know everything you can about your company's specific guidelines. Many times, some of it can be paid, like short-term disability.


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