Your regular attendance at work is important to both you and your employer. The company relies on you to perform specific tasks and may struggle to replace your work on days when you can’t do your job. You require a regular schedule and plenty of hours in order to earn enough money to support yourself and any family members that depend on you.

However, regardless of how devoted you may be to your job or how many sick days you have had to take in the past, you can easily find yourself in a situation where you will need to take a protracted leave of absence from work. Certain situations requiring leave receive protection under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Knowing your rights can help you stand up for yourself if your employer tries to deny you a reasonable FMLA leave request.

When does the FMLA apply and what does it offer?

Many businesses have the legal obligation to comply with the FMLA. Any public business, including state, federal and local government agencies, as well as schools, must comply with the FMLA. Private-sector businesses with 50 or more staff members who have worked for the company for at least 20 weeks out of the last year must also allow employees to take leave under the FMLA.

Provided that you have worked at least 1,250 hours in the last 12 months and have been an employee for at least 12 months, you have the right to request up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave in any given year. If the individual applying for FMLA leave is a servicemember or someone in the immediate family of an injured or sick servicemember who intends to provide care for that military servicemember, the amount of leave permissible increases to 26 weeks.

What are common reasons to request FMLA leave?

The most common reason to request time off under the FMLA is probably adding a new child to your family. The birth, adoption or foster placement of a child can all result in valid FMLA leave requests. Additionally, if an employee comes down with a serious health condition, whether it’s an illness or injury, if the condition prevents them from doing their job, they can also request leave.

Finally, an employee can request up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave if their spouse, parent or child is in need of in-home care due to an illness or injury. Your employer should allow you to take the leave and to come back to work without incurring any kind of demotion or decrease in pay as a result of the leave you need to care for yourself or your family members.