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Check the laws when an employee asks you for unpaid leave

On Behalf of | Dec 23, 2020 | Firm News

If you run a small business, you rely on your employees showing up every day. When a staff member wants extra time off it can make things complicated.  You might be inclined to refuse. However, you need to understand the Family Medical Leave Act before answering.

What is the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA)?

The FMLA is a federal law. It allows staff up to 12 weeks per year to look after a seriously ill family member or if they are seriously ill themselves. Employees can also use it to spend time with their newborn baby or newly adopted child. As an employer, you must hold their job open and cannot punish or prejudice them in any way for taking time off. Time taken off under the FMLA is considered unpaid leave, however, so you don’t have to pay for this time.

Does the FMLA apply to my business?

The FMLA applies if you are a private employer with more than 50 staff for more than 20 weeks in the year. It also applies to most schools and local, state and federal agencies. Even so, the FMLA does not apply to all employees. Anyone requesting to use it must have worked for you for at least one year. They must have worked at least 1,250 hours for you within the past 12 months. The employee must also have worked at a site where you employ 50 or more staff within a 75-mile radius.

If you are unsure whether you must give someone time off under the FMLA, it is wise to seek legal advice. Getting it wrong could land you in court and lead to more expenses.