NPR recently wrote a piece on the employee experience taking time off under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). What they found was that the FMLA didn't work for many employees - either because they weren't eligible or because the Act didn't offer enough time off. Not only were many employees not eligible for the protections provided under the FMLA, but they weren't aware of that until they became sick. These findings illustrate how important it is to know the protections available at your company.
First, everyone should know whether or not they qualify for the FMLA: an employee must have worked for his employer for at least 12 months, including at least 1,250 hours during the most recent 12 months. The law applies to workers at all government agencies and schools nationwide, as well as private companies with 50 or more employees within 75 miles.
Second, it's important to know how long your leave will be. Eligible employees can take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave a year, which can be used all at once or in increments as short as a few hours at a time. Employers have different ways that they are able to calculate years, however, so you should familiarize yourself with the method used at your company.
Lastly, explore ways that you may get additional time off if the FMLA is not long enough for you. Employers often have short-term and long-term disability benefits that might offer additional leave time, or the same amount of leave time but with some subsidized pay. Consult your human resources representative and your employee manual for details on whether this is offered at your place of work or if there are additional leave policies.