What Should I Know About Different Types of Employee Leave?

There’s no way around it– life gets in the way of work sometimes. To stay compliant, you need to know which types of employee leave are required by law.


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types of employee leave, specifically parental leave

There’s no way around it– life gets in the way of work from time to time. Whether you’ve just had a baby, someone close to you has passed away, you’ve been summoned for jury duty or for a variety of reasons in between, chances are that eventually you or an employee will need a leave of absence from work.

What kind of life events qualify for a leave of absence? How can you, as a manager, handle an employee leave of absence? Below you’ll find a breakdown of all the essentials

What are the types of employee leave?

When it comes to the types of leaves of absence that an employee can take from work, there are several categories:

  • Bereavement. This type of leave occurs when someone close to an employee passes away, often an immediate family member. Many businesses have policies about which types of family members qualify an employee for bereavement leave.
  • Paid or Unpaid Sabbatical. Sabbaticals are a type of leave that allows an employee to take off an extended amount of time. Some companies offer sabbaticals in which the employee receives full pay, some offer half pay, and others offer unpaid sabbaticals. This type of leave is not required by law, and is at the discretion of the company (often as a fringe benefit). 
  • Maternity / Paternity leave. There is no federal law which requires maternity or paternity leave, but several states, such as New York, New New Jersey, and Rhode Island passed laws requiring paid family leave, encompassing both maternity and paternity leave for either having or adopting a child.
  • Medical leave. Due to medical complications, such as accidents or an illness, employees can take a medical leave of absence from work. This is largely regulated by the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). According to the HR Daily Advisor, “FMLA applies to employers with over 50 employees. It provides up to 12 weeks of leave annually for a serious illness of an employee or an employee’s immediate family member, or for an employee to assist an immediate family member for qualifying exigencies related to military service.”
  • Jury duty. It’s against the law for a company to penalize an employee for jury duty at the federal level. And while it’s not required at the federal level to pay an employee for time spent at jury duty, there are often a variety of state and local laws that require payment. Therefore, it’s important to look up the laws that dictate jury duty based on where your company is located.
  • Caretaker duty. If someone close to your employee is in failing health or needs assistance, they can consider “caretaker duty.” Like medical leave, this is also dictated by FMLA.

Pregnancy-related leave, maternity and paternity leave, and time off to vote or appear as a witness in court are type of employee leave that are typically regulated at the state or local level rather than federally, so check with the laws that pertain to your business’s location in order to understand what types of leave are and aren’t required.

How do you take a leave of absence from work?

Taking a leave of absence from work is often a process that runs through a company’s HR department. At some companies and employee may simply ask for some time off, while at others there might be a formal process surrounding leave. It’s important to note that, outside of the types of leave covered by FMLA or other state and local laws, your employer is not required to approve a request for leave.

How long can you take a leave of absence from work?

The FMLA allows for 12 weeks off during a 12 month period, as mentioned above. Beyond that, the amount of time allowed is decided by state and local laws or, for the most part, by company policy.
When it comes to whether or not certain types of leave are paid, that also comes down to local regulations. It’s important to note that the FMLA only requires that opportunities exist to take certain types of leave– it does not dictate that these periods of leave be paid. 

How can employers manage an employee leave of absence?

Managing an employee leave of absence is largely a game of coordination. As SHRM explains, there are five steps to handling an employee’s leave of absence:

  1. Determining applicable laws.
  2. Reviewing your company’s policies, procedures, and practices.
  3. Approving or disapproving the request for a leave of absence and documenting the process.
  4. Taking action as the situation progresses.
  5. Conducting ongoing evaluation.

Always remember that you should remain in line with laws at all times while determining which policies and procedures work best for your company. Assess the needs of your employees alongside the reach of your budget and craft a policy that’s right for your team.


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