How Long is a FMLA Leave?
The FMLA provides a right to a leave of absence for a maximum of 12 weeks in a 12-month period (“leave year”).
If an employee works part-time, the amount of leave the employee is entitled to is determined on a proportional basis.
How is the 12-Month “Leave Year” Determined?
An employee's employer selects how it will determine what constitutes a 12-month leave year for purposes of an employee's right to a FMLA leave within that time period.
An employer can make this determination by using one of the following four methods:
(1) a calendar year, i.e. January 1 to Dec. 31,
(2) any fixed 12-month year it chooses, i.e. the company's fiscal year or the employee's anniversary date,
(3) a 12-month period from the time an employee takes a FMLA leave,
(4) a 12-month period measured backwards from the date an employee uses their FMLA leave.
Regardless of what method an employer chooses, the employer must use the same method for all of its employees.
Must an Employee Use All of Their FMLA Leave at Once?
No. An employee may take intermittent leaves or reduced schedule leaves. Note however that intermittent or reduced leaves are only available for some of the qualifying reasons that an employee is eligible to take an FMLA leave.
An intermittent leave is taken in separate blocks of time due to an employee's specific need for such a leave.
A reduced leave schedule is a change in the employee's schedule for a period of time, typically from full-time to part time.
An employee may take an intermittent or reduced schedule leave when it is medically necessary because of their own serious health condition or to care for their spouse, child or parents' serious health condition. Usually, the medical need for an intermittent or reduced schedule leave must be certified by a health care provider.
Examples of a medical need for intermittent leave include the need to have occasional absences from work to attend doctor's appointments for treatment and/or monitoring of a serious health condition and a pregnant employee suffering from bouts of severe morning sickness.
Examples of a medical need for a reduced leave schedule is an employee's inability to work full-time while recovering from surgery but who is capable of working part time, an employee who requires physical therapy for several hours a day and thus is only able to work half day, and an employee who needs to accompany their spouse to medical treatments each day.