• Kirstin Kennedy

The Meaning of 'Protective Leave' under FMLA

Protected leave from work is offered to qualifying employees through the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 – but what does protected leave really mean?

Many individuals who find themselves in need of extended leave from their places of employment wonder what the Family and Medical Leave Act, commonly referred to as FMLA, actually protects in terms of their jobs, salaries, and health care coverage.


Protected leave through FMLA guarantees an eligible employee will not lose his or her job as a result of extended time away from work. Employers must permit the employee to resume his or her job as usual when he or she returns to work. Notably, it is illegal to terminate or discriminate against an employee based on his or her use of protected FMLA leave.



However, FMLA does not require an employer to pay an employee while he or she is on leave through the program. FMLA guarantees only protection of the individual’s job – it does not guarantee compensation. As a result, FLMA leave is unpaid for the duration that it is taken by the employee. Before exercising use of FMLA, it is important to understand that your salary or regular pay will not resume until you return to work.


While compensation is not protected, employer-supported health insurance is covered. An employee who take FMLA are entitled to maintain his or her health care coverage throughout the duration of his or her leave. Employees may still be required to make regular payments or contributions to the employer-based health care program, as if the employee remained working.


When it comes down to it, protective leave means that your job must be held by your employer while you take FMLA leave. Your employer cannot terminate or discriminate against you for taking necessary leave through the program. You will not receive your salary or regular pay during your period of leave, but you are entitled to continued use of your employer-based health insurance.

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