If you work for a company for over one year, you qualify to take up to three months unpaid leave from your job under the Family and Medical Leave Act or FMLA. Situations allowed for leave under FMLA include the birth or adoption of a child, caring for a sick family member, or if you need the time off due to illness. FMLA has its advantages, but it also entails a number of drawbacks.
FMLA offers leave time without pay. In some cases, such as the birth or adoption of a child, you can plan ahead by building a savings before you take the leave. In other cases, such as a sudden illness of yourself or a family member, you have no time to financially plan ahead. Having no income while on a leave of absence can lead to extreme financial hardship for yourself and your family.
The FMLA states that an employer cannot fire you specifically for taking a leave of absence. Employers must also give you the opportunity to hold the same job or an equivalent position upon your return. However, the federal government has no way to monitor or enforce this portion of the act. That means there is no way to make certain that you will still have a job when your leave time ends and you return to work.
When an employee files for leave under FMLA, the employer gets to determine if the illness of the employee or her family member constitutes a serious illness. Since there are no guidelines as to which illnesses constitute as serious under FMLA, it leads to ambiguity on the employer’s decision as to whether to approve the leave. Additionally, the costs for the temporary replacement of that employee can be high. If the employer chooses not to temporarily replace the employee taking leave, this can lead to lower productivity during the time the employee is absent.