Requesting A Leave of Absence? Here's What You Should — And Shouldn't — Do

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Kristina Udice
Kristina Udice
June 23, 2024 at 11:4AM UTC
If something monumental happens in your personal or professional life, it may require you to leave work for a lot longer than your benefits or PTO will allow. What are you to do?

What Is a Personal Leave of Absence?

This is where a leave of absence may come in handy. But what is a personal leave of absence, and how long can you take a leave of absence from work?
In short, a leave of absence is a period of time an employee takes away from his or her job while still holding the title of employee from the period the leave starts to when the employee returns. It’s different from other forms of absences like vacations, holidays, sabbaticals and hiatuses. That’s because these other forms of “leave” are considered to be benefits or privileges of the employee, like working from home, instead of being extenuating circumstances. 
And there are two types of leave: mandated, and volunteer.
Mandated leaves of absence include instances like jury duty leave, military leave, victim leave, and voter leave to name a few. Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) also fall under this leave of absence category.
A volunteered, personal leave of absence might be taken for many reasons — be they personal or professional. Some instances of a personal leave of absence include maternity leave, family leave, sick leave, bereavement leave, religious leave and a medical leave of absence to name a few.
But just because these options are out there, doesn’t mean asking for them is easy. 
Policies and regulations change from company to company, and state to state, and most full-time employees will be granted this leave on a case-by-case basis depending on the employer-employee relationship and the reason behind the request.

What Is a Family Leave of Absence?

A family leave of absence is time you take off of work to spend time with or care for your famly. 
A family leave most often refers to the aforementioned FMLA, which provides you (if you're eligible) with 12 weeks of unpaid leave to attend applicable family and medical circumstances.

Do You Get Paid During a Leave of Absence?

You may be paid during your leave, but most commonly, leaves of absence are unpaid. If you are paid, you may still need to cover other benefits such as dental insurance or life insurance during your leave.
If you find yourself in a position where you need to ask for an employee leave of absence, follow these steps for success.

1. Familiarize Yourself with the Leave of Absence Policy

Outside of state-mandated paid leave programs and policies, most companies vary when it comes to what they offer employees as far as a leave of absence is concerned. But you have rights and it’s important that you are cognizant of them. Employers are required by law to give you time off for mandated leaves, like FMLA, ADA or active duty. But because of the varying laws and policies across the country, it can get confusing knowing if you are an eligible employee.
It’s also important considering what may happen to your pay and other benefits. After how many days will you lose your pay? Will it be accepted, under the condition that it would be an unpaid leave of absence? These are questions you should have answered before beginning the conversation with your supervisor and human resource.

2. Provide Ample Time

You don’t ever want to give anyone bad news without any notice, not that asking for a leave is bad news per se. It’s important to give your employer enough time to plan ahead, however. If you need to take time from work, then they will need to find someone to perform those tasks in the meantime. This goes for any leave, though there is of course more flexibility when it comes to sick leave or a medical leave of absence.

3. Talk with Both Your Direct Supervisor and HR

You don’t want to blindside your supervisor, so you should make sure they’re in the loop throughout the entire process. But human resources might be able to help answer any questions or provide clarification on company-specific work policies on what would make you an eligible employee. You should try to have these questions answered, but once you’ve spoken to your direct supervisor, in order to keep the employer-employee relationship intact, it’s time to get HR involved.

4. Write it Down

Like any other legally binding document, it’s important to get your leave of absence form in writing. This should include the start and end date. But before you get to the contract part, it might be helpful to write down your reasoning and outline your request to make the conversation a simpler one.

5. Talk in Person

While this isn’t a resignation, it can sometimes feel like it both from an employee’s and an employer’s perspective. This is why it’s vital to speak in person. It’ll ease tensions and provide an environment of open conversation. Take the time to outline your reasoning and make sure you’re following your company’s policies regarding an employee leave of absence. You might also be able to come to a different conclusion, taking a partial leave or working from home if your request allows.

6. Set an End Date

This is vital both for you and your employee supervisor. By setting an end date, you’re letting your employer know that you indeed intend on returning. This might also make the request a more likely one to be accepted. It will also give you more confidence and stability in your decision knowing you have a job to return to.

About the Career Expert:

Kristina Udice is a senior SEO analyst for Reprise and a copy and content creator for a wealth of publications and businesses, including Fairygodboss, Express Writers, Learn Language Hoboken, Insider, and more. 

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