If an unexpected situation occurs in your personal life, you could be guaranteed a leave of absence to take time off from work to handle this circumstance. Certain situations require employers to grant you a specific number of hours away from work. It’s typically up to your employer to decide if this time off will be paid or unpaid. In this article, we discuss what a leave of absence is, explore the differences between a paid and unpaid leave of absence and share common examples of a paid leave of absence.
What is a leave of absence?
A leave of absence occurs when a supervisor grants an employee an extended period off from their work responsibilities to handle a significant, and sometimes unexpected personal event. When an employee takes this time off from work, it can either be paid or unpaid, depending on the circumstance and employers’ preferences.
Paid leave vs. unpaid leave of absence
The two main types of leaves of absence are paid and unpaid. The definitions and differences between the two are as follows:
This leave of absence allows you to take time off from work and still receive your normal pay. The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) requires your employer to grant you a specific amount of time off from work duties for certain personal issues, but it’s not federally required that it be paid leave. Some state laws may require employers to provide paid time off for certain leaves of absence.
Many employers typically choose to offer an allotted amount of paid leave to their team to ensure they remain financially stable during their time away from work duties. Some companies provide their employees with a set number of paid leave hours that they can use for any personal instances. Others allow their employees to accrue this paid leave over time based on how many days and hours they work. Check your company’s handbook to determine how many hours of paid leave you’re allotted.
Unpaid leave is the extended time period your employer allows you to take off of work without providing you with compensation during that time. If your reason for taking time off is considered mandatory by the FMLA, you’re allowed certain days of unpaid leave with a guarantee that your position will still be available when you return to work. You should also still be able to receive certain employee benefits, like health insurance coverage.
Some employers let you put your accrued vacation time toward your leave of absence. If your vacation hours run out but you still need to remain on leave, the rest of that time will typically just be unpaid.
Examples of paid leave of absence
Some leaves of absence are considered mandatory, which requires your employer to give you a certain number of hours off to tend to your personal situation. Common examples of paid leaves of absence include:
This type of leave is granted to employees who have experienced a death in their family or to their loved ones. Most companies will give these employees time off to make arrangements and recover from their loss. The FMLA allows employees 12 weeks of leave to handle family-related matters, which can include health conditions or serious illnesses, so this type of leave is usually covered by that policy.
The FMLA also covers maternity and paternity leave to new parents for up to 12 weeks. Employees can take this time to bond with their newborn child and to adapt to their new life with their children. Not only are employees typically offered parental leave for newborns, but they’re also granted this for children they’ve newly adopted as well. Review your state’s FMLA laws regarding paid leave, as some require companies to offer paid parental leave.
The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act requires companies to offer their employees unpaid leave if an employee is called in to serve in the military. The employee is guaranteed their role when they return from service, along with their health insurance coverage. This includes employees who are either currently active or inactive members of the United States military.
Your employer must grant you time off to serve as a federal court juror under the Jury Systems Improvement Act. There is no federal law stating that employees must receive paid leave of absence when serving on jury duty. This can vary by state, as some will require employers to grant you paid leave during your time away. Review your state’s laws to learn more.
There are some states that require your employer to allow you time off to vote. Depending on where you live, you may even be entitled to paid leave to go vote. Research your state laws to determine which type of leave you can receive.
In addition to receiving leave for disabilities, you’re also entitled to medical leave, which is protected by the FMLA. This grants you enough time off to handle either your own medical issues or the medical issues of your loved ones. Common reasons people may take this time off are if they’re undergoing a serious health condition or if they’re taking care of a family member or loved one who’s currently experiencing a health condition.
Some employees may choose to enhance their skill set and knowledge level by continuing their education. This may entail leaving their current role to pursue a certification or additional degree. Most employers may let these employees take a paid or unpaid leave of absence to do this because the employee may use this additional knowledge in their current role with the company. It also grants you the ability to advance in the company and make big-picture decisions for the organization, which usually benefits your employer.