Family and Medical Leave Act

The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA) entitles most Federal employees to a total of up to 12 workweeks of unpaid leave during any 12-month period for the following purposes:

  • the birth of a son or daughter and the care of such son or daughter
  • the placement of a son or daughter with the employee for adoption or foster care
  • the care of a spouse, son, daughter, or parent of the employee who has a serious health condition; or
  • a serious health condition of the employee that makes the employee unable to perform the essential functions of his or her position
  • any qualifying exigency arising from out of the fact that the spouse, or a son, daughter, or a parent of the employee is on covered active duty, or has been notified of an impending call or order to active duty in the Armed Forces.

Substitution of Paid Leave

Employees may elect to substitute annual, sick leave or any other appropriate leave (e.g., advanced annual or sick leave, VLTP, etc.) for any unpaid leave under provisions in 5 CFR 630.1206.

Definition of Spouse

As a result of the Supreme Court's decision on 26 June 2013, which invalidated Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), OPM issued guidance that Federal employees with same-sex spouses are now provided the same FMLA entitlements as those with opposite-sex spouses. Link to OPM memorandum on this - The use of definition of "spouse" in OPM FMLA regulation at 5 CFR 630.1202 (January 1, 2014) has been discontinued.


Employee eligibility is based on the definition of "employee" according to 5 U.S.C. 6301(2), and in addition to meeting the definition, the employee must have completed at least 12 months of service (not required to be 12 recent or consecutive months). Additional information concerning employee FMLA eligibility can be found at 5 CFR, Section 630.1201.

Employees serving under intermittent appointments or temporary appointments with a time limitation of 1 year or less; and any other individuals excluded under 5 CFR 630.1201(b) (2) are not entitled to leave under the FMLA.


Twelve (12) administrative workweeks are available for full-time employees, and the amount of time available to part-time employees is directly proportional to the number of hours in the employee's regularly scheduled administrative workweek. The 12-month period begins on the date an employee first takes FMLA leave and continues for 12 months. An employee is not entitled to 12 additional workweeks of unpaid leave until the previous 12-month period ends and an event or situation occurs that entitles the employee to another period of FMLA leave. (This may include a continuation of a previous event or situation).

The 12 workweeks of unpaid leave under the FMLA are in addition to any accrued or accumulated annual leave, sick leave, other paid leave, or compensatory time off available to employees. Holidays may not be counted toward the aforementioned 12 workweeks. Certain conditions may allow employees to use the 12 weeks of FMLA intermittently see 5 CFR 630.1205(b).

Typically an employee must invoke their entitlement to FMLA leave and normally may not invoke the entitlement retroactively. If foreseeable, an employee must provide notice of their intent to invoke entitlement to FMLA not less than 30 days before the leave is to begin, or in emergencies, as soon as practical. If necessary, notice may be given by an employee's personal representative (e.g., a family member or other responsible party). If the need for leave is not foreseeable and the employee is unable, due to circumstances beyond his or her control, to provide notice of his or her need for leave, the leave may not be delayed or denied. If the employee or the employee's personal representative is physically or mentally incapable of invoking the entitlement during the entire period of absence from work for an FMLA-qualifying purpose, the employee may retroactively invoke entitlement within 2 workdays after returning to work (See 5 CFR 630.1203(b) for additional information).

Medical Certification

Army organization may require that an employee's request for FMLA leave to care for a sick family member, or for the employee's own serious health condition, be supported by medical certification issued by a health care provider of the employee or the employee's ill family member. Where an activity requires medical certification as outlined in 5 CFR 630.1208, employees are required to provide medical certification of a serious health condition no later than 15 calendar days after the date requested. If employees are unable to provide requested medical documentation and they have made good faith efforts to comply, medical documentation must be provided as soon as practicable under the circumstances involved, but no later than 30 days after the date requested. Written certification should, at a minimum, include:

  1. The date the serious health condition commenced; and
  2. The probable duration of the serious health condition or specify that the serious health condition is a chronic or continuing condition with an unknown duration and whether the patient is presently incapacitated and the likely duration and frequency of episodes of incapacity.

At its own expense, an organization may require subsequent medical recertification on a periodic basis, but no more than once every 30 calendar days, for leave taken for purposes relating to pregnancy, chronic conditions, or long-term conditions. (See 5 CFR 630.1208(j) for additional information).

Content last reviewed: 11/5/2014 - SZ/TFW