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Employee Life Cycle Part 4: Time Off and Leaves of Absence

Hear from Paychex HR consultant Margie Bassford about the laws that impact forms of time off including paid leave days, sick time, personal days, and leaves of absence.


Discover more about the employee life cycle:

Part 1: Paying Employees

Part 2: Proper Employee Documentation

Part 3: Human Rights & Discrimination Laws

Part 5: Employee Behavior & Performance

Part 6: Workplace Safety

Part 7: Employee Handbook Policy

Part 8: Employee Discipline & Termination

Part 9: Attracting & Retaining Talent

Part 10: Deepening Employee Engagement


Many employers offer paid and unpaid time off as part of their employee benefits and can include paid leave days, sick time, or personal days. There may be circumstances when an employee needs to take additional time off in the form of a leave of absence. In such cases, there are two federal laws that often impact leave of absence – the Americans with Disabilities Act, or ADA, which applies to businesses with 15 or more workers, and the Family Medical Leave Act or FMLA, which applies to all public sector employers and to private businesses with 50 or more workers.

FMLA entitles eligible employees to receive a maximum of 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected time off from work during a 12-month period without the risk of losing their jobs in order to address either their own or a qualified family member's serious health condition, childbirth and to bond with the newborn child, adoption and foster care placement, and any qualifying exigency arising out of the fact that the employee's spouse, son, daughter, or parent is a military member on covered active duty.

To be eligible for FMLA, an employee must work for a covered employer for at least 12 months and have worked at least 1,250 hours in the prior 12-month period, and work at a location where the employer has at least 50 employees within 75 miles.

FMLA also entitles an eligible employee to receive a maximum of 26 weeks of unpaid, job-protected time off in a single 12-month period without the risk of losing their jobs in order to care for a covered service member with a serious injury or illness if the employee is the spouse, son, daughter, parent, or next of kin to the service member. This is military caregiver leave.

When an employee returns from FMLA leave they must be restored to their original job or an equivalent position with equal pay, benefits, and other conditions. However, if the employee would have otherwise been laid off or if the employer had eliminated the position altogether, the employee may not be entitled to their previous job.

Unlike FMLA, there is no set amount of work leave that an employer is required to give under the ADA. The amount of leave given depends on the job and disability, and must be determined on an individual basis. As a background, the ADA prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability and employment, and requires that covered employers provide reasonable accommodations to qualified applicants and employees with disabilities.

An employer must consider providing unpaid leave to an employee with a disability as a reasonable accommodation if the employee requires it, as long as it does not create an undue operational or financial hardship for the business.

Employees on disability leave may also request reasonable accommodation to return to work, whether it's a change in the workplace, work schedule, job structure, or workplace equipment.

Generally, public sector employees and private businesses with more than 50 workers are covered under both the ADA and FMLA. Workers who have used up FMLA leave may be entitled to additional work leave under the ADA if they meet the act's definition of a person with a disability.

As you can see, there are many considerations surrounding work leave, and staying in compliance with these laws is critical. You can minimize risk of an FMLA or ADA compliance violation with the help of regular comprehensive manager trainings, accurate time and attendance records, and thorough HR management tools.

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* This content is for educational purposes only, is not intended to provide specific legal advice, and should not be used as a substitute for the legal advice of a qualified attorney or other professional. The information may not reflect the most current legal developments, may be changed without notice and is not guaranteed to be complete, correct, or up-to-date.

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