How and when can a federal employee use FMLA leave – both paid and unpaid.

This is the third piece in a series on the types of leave for federal employees. The first two articles covered both sick leave and annual leave for government workers. Unlike those, however, leave stemming from the 1993 Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) does not really factor into one’s retirement. Another key difference is that there is both unpaid and paid FMLA leave.

Unpaid Family and Medical Leave

12 workweeks (480 hours) is available every 12-month timeframe for family and medical leave. If the employee is not paid during this absence, they can utilize these 12 weeks for any of the following reasons:

  • The birth of a child
  • Adoption of a child
  • To care for spouse, child, or parent with serious health condition (your employing agency may ask for medical certification in this case)
  • A serious health condition that results in the employee being unable to perform essential functions of their occupation
  • An urgent circumstance related to the fact that a spouse, child, or parent is on covered active duty in the armed forces (or if they’re about to leave for a tour of active service)

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There are two more important aspects of unpaid FMLA leave to keep in mind. The first is that the 12 workweeks do not need to be taken consecutively. And other paid leave options (mostly sick and annual) can be taken in between weeks designated as unpaid family or medical leave.  The second piece of information pertains to FEHB. You can keep your coverage during the time FMLA is being used. Premiums can be paid by employee directly for the period where unpaid FMLA leave is taken, or premiums for FEHB can resume coming from an employee’s paycheck after they’ve returned to work. With the latter, your first paycheck back will be greatly reduced by all the past-due FEHB premiums that will be deducted.

Since passing in the early 1990s, the FMLA has experienced two major changes. In 2013, the Supreme Court ruled, when it comes to Feds taking FMLA unpaid leave, spouses from same-sex marriages would be recognized regardless of any conflicting state laws. Then, at the end of 2019, paid family leave was made available for new parents.

Paid Family Leave

In addition to the 12 weeks on allotted unpaid family and medical leave, another 12 weeks is available for feds if they are parents of a newborn, or a newly adopted child. Only feds who have worked at least 12 weeks before taking the paid FMLA leave are eligible to use it – except in cases where the child or mother are inflicted by a medical condition that prevents either of the parents from returning to work. Assuming the fed is eligible for paid family leave, they would be able to take 12 weeks paid and up to 12 weeks unpaid in a given 12-month timeframe.

Until Next Time,

**Written by Benjamin Derge, Financial Planner, ChFEBC℠. The information has been obtained from sources considered reliable but we do not guarantee that the foregoing material is accurate or complete. Any opinions are those of Benjamin Derge and not necessarily those of RJFS or Raymond James. Links are being provided for information purposes only. Expressions of opinion are as of this date and are subject to change without notice. Raymond James is not affiliated with and does not endorse, authorize, or sponsor any of the listed websites or their respective sponsors.

Family and Medical Leave for Feds