The Family and Medical Leave Act took effect in 1993 to help balance workplace demands with the medical needs of employees and their families.

If your shop provides Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) benefits to its employees, it’s in your best interest to inform and educate your workers. Many employees who have never had to use the benefits provided by the FMLA are either unclear or unaware of their privileges under the act.

The following are a few key points to start out with when talking to employees about the FMLA. 

  • An employee is entitled to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave during a 12-month period for your own serious health condition, or to care for an immediate family member who has a serious health condition. They may also use the FMLA for what the Department of Labor website refers to as "birth and bonding:" an extended parental leave for the birth or adoption of a child, and for bonding with a new foster child.

  • Eligible employees must have worked for their employer for at least 12 months prior to requesting the leave. And they must also have worked at least 1,250 hours in those 12 months. For someone who works an eight-hour day, that translates to approximately 156 days. To be eligible to provide benefits to your employees you must have at least 50 employees who work within 75 miles of its location. Once again, various states have different provisions.

  • A job is guaranteed to employees upon their return, but not necessarily the same job. Ideally, your company will be able to restore the employee to the same job as before. But that isn't what's guaranteed. According to the Department of Labor website, "an employee must be restored to the employee's original job, or to an equivalent job with equivalent pay, benefits, and other terms and conditions of employment."

  • Under the FMLA, an employee may take up to 26 weeks of leave in a single 12-month period to care for a covered service member with a serious health condition, provided that they are the service member's spouse, child, parent or the nearest blood relative who has been granted legal custody of the injured service member.