A leave of absence is time allowed away from work, generally requested by an employee, to cover unusual circumstances occurring in the employee’s life. The leave of absence is used when the employee’s time off from work is not covered under an employer’s existing benefits such as sick leave, paid vacation, paid holidays, and paid time off.
The most important component of a leave of absence is that the employee’s employment continues during the leave of absence. Either by law or choice, depending on the circumstances, many employers continue an employee’s health insurance during a leave of absence. The employee may need to pay for other benefits such as dental insurance or life insurance.
A leave of absence is either paid or unpaid and some leaves of absence are required by law; a leave of absence is also allowed by employers, on a case by case basis in most employer policies. Another example of a leave of absence involves required time away from work while an employer investigates allegations of wrong doing by an employee.
Examples of a legally required unpaid leave of absence is time allotted by the Family and Medical Leave Act and by the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA). Bereavement time and jury duty are examples of a paid leave of absence. Caring for a sick family member, obtaining medical treatment in another country, an extended visit to an employee’s home country to see family, and time away from work to deal with the estate of a loved one are examples of unpaid leaves of absence.
In any case, the employer needs an application process and a policy for granting a leave of absence. The employer must apply the policy in a nondiscriminatory manner.