If you are a private company with 50 or more employees, a public agency, or an elementary/secondary school, your business is covered under the Federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). This act requires covered employers to provide up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave per year to qualifying employees who need to:
- take care of their own serious health condition
- care for a spouse or immediate family member’s serious health condition
- bond with a new child
The FMLA also requires covered employers to provide up to 26 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave per year to care for an ill or injured service-member spouse, parent, child or next of kin.
The Labor Department has created an extensive fact sheet about FMLA leave for mental health conditions that can help you understand the rules. However, most mental health conditions requiring ongoing treatment will qualify through the FMLA.
Employees can use their FMLA leave intermittently
It is important to remember that employees are not required to use their FMLA leave all at once. For example, an employee who qualifies for FMLA leave could take two weeks off for an inpatient treatment and then take the rest of their annual leave for medical appointments.
Employers must avoid retaliation
When an employee takes FMLA leave for their own or a family member’s serious mental health condition, it is illegal for their employer to interfere with that leave. This includes denying rightful leave, demanding that employees work while on leave, failing to reinstate the person once they return, or any form of retaliation for taking the leave. The employer must continue to provide the employee’s group health benefits under the same terms, and they must restore the employee to the same or equivalent position when they return from leave.