Leaves of Absence
Some companies offer long-term employees the benefit of a paid or unpaid leave of absence or sabbatical after a certain number of years of service. Typically this leave lasts from one month to a year and can be used for any purpose the employee wishes.
Even if your company doesn’t have such a policy, you may have the right to a leave of absence for specific purposes. The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) allows employees of companies with more than 50 employees, or employees of public agencies of any size, to take an unpaid, job-protected leave for up to 12 weeks within a 12-month period for the following reasons:
- Birth or adoption of a child
- Placement of a foster child
- The care of a child
- The care of a dependent (including spouses or parents) with a serious health condition
- The employee’s own serious health condition
Note that these leaves are unpaid. In some cases your employer will allow or even require you to use your accrued vacation or sick time. Once that time is gone, the remaining leave time is unpaid, and you cannot collect unemployment benefits, though you may be eligible for disability.
There are a few states (including California) offering paid family leave, so make sure to research the laws of your state.