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Medical Leave of Absence

There are many reasons why an employee may find themselves unable to work and require a leave of absence. One of them is facing a medical condition or conditions that reduce their mental and/or physical health. When this happens, they may find that they can no longer do their job or undertake critical responsibilities. 

Much like any other type of leave, medical leave of absence comes with ramifications relating to employee engagement and compliance. Therefore, employers must address the consequences of the medical leave of absence.

Medical Leave of Absence - Qualifying Conditions  

To find out the conditions that mean an employee qualifies for a medical leave of absence, employers must refer to the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). There is a broad definition of what conditions qualify for a medical leave of absence in this act. 

According to the act, conditions that qualify for a medical leave of absence include serious health conditions that make an employee unable to do their job or perform the position's responsibilities.

A healthcare professional must certify that the employee has a condition that prevents them from performing one or all essential tasks of the position.

Medical Leave of Absence Length and Pay Guidelines

The Family and Medical Leave Act states that employees must provide a maximum of 12 weeks medical leave of absence relating to medical conditions. 

The employer is not obliged to pay the employee while under medical leave of absence. However, if an employer chooses to provide some form of paid leave, they may request that employees use an accrued leave as part of the 12-week medical leave of absence. 

Medical Leave of Absence and Mental Health

A medical condition doesn’t have to be visible to be considered for a medical leave of absence. Certain mental health issues may also be eligible for a medical leave of absence. For example, conditions such as bipolar disorder, anxiety, depression, or post-traumatic stress disorder can affect a person’s performance in the workplace just as much as a physical condition. 

Dealing with an employee requesting a medical leave of absence because of mental health issues can be challenging. Here are a few tips that might help:

  • Try not to make assumptions, for example, assuming that PSTD makes a person aggressive 
  • Encourage engagement between managers and employees to help identify when an employee with a condition needs help 
  • Be clear about performance expectations.
  • Listen to what employees have to say, and don’t be afraid to ask how you can help/ 

Employees don’t have to take their medical leave of absence in a solid block of 12 weeks. When employers are flexible in their approach to medical leave of absence, employees can better deal with conditions that recur or setbacks they experience without worrying about losing their job.