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Set Yourself Up for Success When Requesting a Leave of Absence

Set Yourself Up for Success When Requesting a Leave of Absence

Starting a new role can be exciting. There is the prospect of ideally earning a higher income than your previous role, there are new co-workers, new projects to work on, and perhaps even a new schedule or working hours.

However, one thing that might not come to mind when starting a new role is you are re-setting the clock when it comes to certain benefits and offerings. One benefit and offering that is often contingent upon time is leave of absences; often how long you have worked at a company can make the difference between qualifying for a leave of absence and not qualifying at all.

While it might not seem obvious, considering a leave of absence before you start a job is not a bad idea. What will happen if you become hurt or too ill to work? Do you have any medical conditions that might require time away from work? Or what if you would like to start a family? One thing that all of these scenarios have in common is they will all require a leave of absence from your job. Let’s walk through the most common leave of absences so you can be prepared before your first day.

[Related: Three Exercises and Prompts to Figure Out What to Do in Your Career]

For starters let’s look at the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). With leave of absences that fall under FMLA, FMLA requires that you work for a company for a full year, work 1,250 hours, and live within 75 mile radius of the company. (Some companies do not enforce the 75 mile radius, but it is worth knowing.) FMLA is also an unpaid leave, which most people do not realize. In the world of remote work, the requirements for FMLA can be a challenge.

If you think, "Okay fine, if I don't qualify for a federal leave, I must qualify for a state leave!" Small detail: State leaves are dictated by the state you live in. You need to check to see if your state offers any protections, as some states don't offer any protected leaves for medical conditions. Plus, even states that do offer a protected leave often also require you work for a company for a full year. So again, if you are new to a company and have not worked a full year with your company, you still my not qualify for a state leave.

If you don’t qualify for a federal or state leave of absence, this now puts you in a personal leave category. Personal leaves are dictated by what the company is willing and able to offer. If considering a new role, ask for details on what a company offers in terms of a personal leave of absence, if anything, as some companies if small may not even offer a personal leave of absence option.

However, in this instance, let’s assume a company does offer a personal leave. While there is a growing trend for larger companies to offer a full six to twelve weeks paid leaves of absence, it is a trend and not a requirement and some companies cannot afford to pay for full leaves of absences. Often companies will offer six, eight, or ten weeks of an unpaid personal leave of absence, which again only protects your job.

[Related: Young Women are Leaving Companies: Here’s Why and What You Can Do About It]

Now let’s talk pay. As you can probably by now tell, most leaves only project your time away from work and protect your job - they offer no wage replacement. For lost wages, companies often allow an employee to use their own PTO and apply for short-term disability, therefore allowing an employee to recoup some or all of their pay while out on leave.

If the company is able, they might offer to pay an employee on a leave of absence by offering a paid leave or extra PTO, but if they don’t offer a paid leave or extra PTO, an employee is looking at using their own PTO and applying for disability programs to help cover their wages. Additionally, employees are still responsible for paying for their portion of their benefit premiums if they are enrolled in company’s sponsored medical, dental, and/or vision coverage.

Before signing onto a new role, you should know what your new company offers in terms of leaves of absences. There are different types of leaves and all have certain criteria in order to qualify for them. It can be surprising for those who are unfamiliar with the requirements.

If you are considering starting a family or know you might need a leave of absence, it is worth asking about a company's leave policies. That last thing anyone wants to discover is that they won’t have as much time away from work as they expected. I have seen it countless times and seen countless crestfallen faces as I deliver the news that someone does not qualify for a federal or state leave and that the company does not offer the same amount of time off for a personal leave of absence.

[Related: Three Signs You Need to Break Up with Your Boss]


As an HR professional, Stephanie Raso's passion for HR stems from the belief that a company’s strongest asset is their employees. She thrives on knowing that she can make an impact.

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