It’s vital to know the types of time off you’re entitled to by law, as well as the leave benefits offered by most companies. Whether you're new to the job market, caring for a sick family member, or just wondering about your options, you’ll most likely need a leave of absence at some point.
As a new employee, it can be difficult to interpret the federal laws and workplace practices that govern your right to paid or unpaid leave. In the United States, the absence of mandated paid leave gives employers a lot of leeway in deciding how much paid vacation days, sick days, or personal days their employees can take. However, most organizations offer paid time off as part of their benefits package to attract, retain, and reward top talent.
After passing the recruitment process, make sure to check your employee handbook to learn about your company’s leave policy. Besides the types and number of leaves you’re eligible for, you can also find out when you can use your paid time off, whether it will be paid at your regular rate, and what happens to unused leaves at the end of the year.
Taking time off for emergencies, family obligations, or personal needs is critical to your overall well-being. Read on to learn more about the types of leave you’re entitled to.
Family and Medical Leave
The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and the California Family Rights Act (CFRA) are federal and state leave laws enacted in the United States to provide employees with job-protected time off for family or medical reasons. Qualified employees are generally allowed up to 12-weeks of unpaid leave within a 12-month period.
The FMLA generally applies to private companies with 50 or more employees who operate within a 75-mile radius. This includes part-time employees, commissioned employees, employees on leave who are scheduled to return to work, and employees on the payroll who have not received compensation. State, federal, and local public agencies, as well as public or private primary and secondary schools, regardless of size, are also eligible.
Since January 2021, California significantly expanded the CFRA, extending it to private companies with five or more employees, regardless of location, as well as public employers of any size.
To be eligible for FMLA or CFRA, you must:
-Have worked with a covered employer for a minimum of 12 months
-Have worked at least 1,250 hours in those 12 months before the start of your leave
-Provide your employer enough information to decide whether FMLA or CFRA is applicable
-Submit your leave request at least 30 days ahead of time
-In case a leave is unexpected, inform your employer as soon as possible
Covered Conditions and Family Members
Both FMLA and CFRA require covered companies to give their employees time off for the following reasons:
-To care for and bond with a newborn or a child placed for adoption or foster care
-To take care of a covered family member who has a serious health condition
-To take care of a covered family member who was injured while in military service
-To manage and recover from own serious health condition
Under the FMLA, covered family members include the employee’s spouse, child, or parent. The CFRA covers the same family members, as well as the employee’s registered domestic partner, child of the domestic partner, sibling, grandparent, or grandchild.
In reality, even though there is no law requiring US employers to provide paid time off benefits to their staff, many companies offer paid leave to help employees balance work and personal life.
Paid leave benefits can be presented in various ways. Some companies provide a set number of days that you can use for emergencies, holidays, or personal time off. Other companies provide a set number of days for each type of leave.
With the exception of a couple of states and jurisdictions, there is no federal law requiring employers to provide paid sick days. Nonetheless, most companies recognize the need to have a competitive benefits package, which includes a set number of paid sick days, to attract the best applicants. Keep in mind that employers have the legal right to request a doctor’s note to verify if you’re using your sick day for its intended health-related purpose.
Vacation time may be the last thing on your mind if you’ve just landed your first job or if you’re on your first day at a new company, but it’s always good to know if your employer provides any paid vacation days as part of their employee benefits package.
While paid vacation time is not required by law, it is a popular benefit that the majority of organizations choose to provide. Vacation time is typically accrued every month or after a specified number of hours worked. If you're a new hire, you may be required to work a certain number of months before you may start earning vacation time.
Your company may cap your vacation time each year. Once you’ve reached your annual limit, you’ll be required to take a break before you can earn more. This policy encourages employees to take time off regularly to promote a good work-life balance.
Other Types of Time Off
In addition to family and medical leave, sick days, and vacation time, companies are legally required to make leave accommodations for jury duty, voting, specific holidays, maternity leave, and any military responsibilities. In addition, some employers offer paid bereavement leave, compensatory days off, and though quite rare, paid sabbaticals.
Know Your Leave Benefits
While the US may fall behind other developed countries in mandating paid leave, more employers nowadays realize the benefits of offering paid time off to improve employee productivity and morale. In any case, as a new employee, it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with labor laws and understand the leave benefits available to you.
Article written by Regi Publico
Exclusively for InternX