12 Truly Good Reasons to Take a Leave of Absence From Work

Published December 16, 2021
employee talking to manager about a leave of absence

Work is an important part of life, but it's not the only aspect that matters. Sometimes it's important (or even necessary!) to take a leave of absence (LOA) from one's job. Discover a dozen good reasons to take a leave of absence from work.

Recovery From Surgery

If you have surgery and need more time to recover than would be allowed under your company's paid time off (PTO) or sick leave policy, you may need to take a medical leave of absence. If your company is covered under Family Medical Leave (FML), as specified in the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), and you are eligible for protection under this law, the business may be required to offer you a job-protected leave of this type. Even if that's not the case, employers are typically willing to work with employees who find themselves in this type of unavoidable situation.

Treatment for an Illness

If you are diagnosed with a serious illness and need time away for extended treatment or recovery, this is another situation that may fall under FML. Whether such a situation is covered under that law depends on the size of the company and how long the employee has been with the company. Depending on the nature of the illness and factors set forth by the employer, this type of leave could be a reasonable accommodation under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA). Even without legal coverage, many employers would consider approving this type of leave.

Becoming a Parent

new father holding infant taking leave of absence from job

Becoming a parent is a great reason to take a leave of absence from work. Some parental leave for both parents is provided under the FMLA, but only for eligible employees who work for covered employers. FML applies to any situation under which any person, regardless of gender, becomes a parent, including the birth of a biological child, adoption, or becoming a foster parent. Many states require additional maternity or parental leave beyond what is specified in the FMLA. Even in places where there is not a legal obligation to do so, many employers also provide parental leave as an employee benefit; some even provide paid leaves of absence or offer ways for employees to request extra maternity leave.

Substance Abuse Treatment

Employees who struggle with drug or alcohol addiction may need to seek inpatient treatment to help them overcome their substance abuse. Employers are often willing to grant time off for such treatment to employees who are proactive in seeking help. There may be information about this in your company's drug and alcohol policy. It is common for such policies to say that companies will allow time off for this type of treatment for those who request it before failing a drug test or before being involved in a workplace violation while under the influence. In some cases, leaves of absence for substance abuse treatment may fall under the FMLA or ADA.

Disability-Related Reasonable Accommodation Leave

If the best way to accommodate a situation that falls under the ADA is to grant the employee time off from work, then employers may agree to a leave of absence. There are several situations in which this type of LOA would be considered. For example, this type of leave might apply to a person with a condition that qualifies as a disability, but who isn't eligible for FML. It can also apply in situations where a person needs time off for treatment due to disability. An example of this might be if a person with bipolar disorder has changed medications and needs to be away from work temporarily to give the new treatment time to be effective.

Immediate Family Member's Serious Health Condition

In situations where a member of the employee's immediate family is diagnosed with a serious medical condition and needs help, employers are required to grant leave to employees who are protected under the FMLA. The provisions of this law apply to the employee's parents, children, and spouse only. Employers are not obligated to provide employees with time off in relation to the illnesses of other family members. For example, if an employee's parent is placed in hospice care, the employer would have to grant leave for the employee. However, if the person in hospice care is the employee's grandparent or parent-in-law, then that situation would not be protected under the FMLA.

Other Family Member's Serious Health Condition

Employers are not legally obligated to grant time off to an employee with family members who are sick if the circumstances are not specifically covered under the FMLA. However, many employers are willing to consider personal leave for employees who aren't protected under the FMLA or who are dealing with the serious illness of another close relative, such as a sibling, grandparent, aunt, uncle, or parent-in-law. Employers who are willing to consider allowing leaves of absence in such situations do so on a case-by-case basis.

Military Caregiver Leave

There is a special type of FML that applies to people who are the closest living relatives of service members who are injured during an active duty deployment. This would apply in a situation where a member of the armed services is severely injured during an overseas active duty deployment and needs help from a family member. In this case, if the individual's closest living relative is someone other than their parent, child, or spouse, job-protected leave must be granted to the individual who is. This type of leave is protected under the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

Military Deployment

woman taking leave of absence from work because of military deployment

Individuals who have civilian employment, in addition to military obligations, must be granted a leave of absence from work when they are called up for active duty. Per the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA), individuals who are on a leave of absence from their civilian jobs due to military deployment cannot be disadvantaged in their employment as a result of their military service or obligations. Not only must employers grant this type of leave and promptly reemploy individuals when they return from military service, they must also grant the employees any across-the-board raises that were given while they were away, and allow them to continue vesting in their benefits.

Bereavement Leave

Most companies allow employees to take a few days of bereavement leave following the death of an immediate family member. However, depending on circumstances, it may take even longer than the number of days allowed to travel for funeral services. Beyond that, especially if the person who passed away was a very close relative, the grieving process may take an extended amount of time. In such a situation, an employee may want to request a bereavement-related leave of absence for a longer period than is covered under any company policy, combined with any PTO or vacation time they have accrued.

Job-Related Education

If you are seeking higher education that is closely related to your job and your employer has a vested interest in you completing that education, it may be possible to get a leave of absence to do so. For example, if you are in a job that requires a high level of fluency in a specific language, your employer may see value in granting a leave of absence for you to pursue an immersive language education experience. Or, if you work in accounting at your company and you are pursuing education in order to qualify to become a Certified Public Accountant (CPA), the company may grant a leave of absence to allow you to accelerate your studies.

Extended Travel

If your company doesn't have a particularly generous PTO or vacation policy, your ability to travel may be somewhat limited. If it's your passion to take an extended trip and you're a great employee, your company may be willing to accommodate a personal leave of absence for such a request. After all, letting good team members take time off from work can greatly reduce the chances that they'll experience employee burnout. Such requests don't have to be approved, of course, but if you ask well in advance and are willing to schedule your trip during the firm's slow season, you just might find that they're willing to allow you to do so. It can't hurt to ask!

Key LOA Approval Considerations

Of course, before you take a leave of absence, you'll need to clear it with your company. Other than situations that fall under the FMLA or ADA, employers are not obligated to grant leaves of absence. Employers generally require employees to use any paid leave they already have before considering an LOA request. When an LOA is granted, employers are not obligated to pay employees for the time they are on leave. Companies don't all have the same policies and practices about leave of absence. Start by checking the employee handbook, then speak with your company's HR director and your boss. They'll be able to provide insight about whether the leave of absence you're requesting is one that may be considered for approval. If it seems feasible, your next step should be to submit a formal request. Your company may have a specific form, or you may need to write a leave of absence request letter.

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12 Truly Good Reasons to Take a Leave of Absence From Work