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It is advisable to take the following steps before requesting FMLA leave:

Step 1. Make sure you are eligible.

Review the information about the basics of the FMLA to see whether you are eligible for leave. Also check the law of your state to determine if you are entitled to more benefits during your leave, or a longer leave. See:

Step 2. Consider how your employer would react to your request

Try to put yourself in your employer's shoes for a moment.

  • Is there a reason your employer would ask you to postpone your leave even though the employer does not have a legal right to do so?
  • If there is a reason, what points can you raise, or what can you do, to help minimize the problem that would arise because of your absence during the time you want off?

Step 3. Realize that you will have to disclose your illness when requesting FMLA leave

Since you will have to disclose that you have a serious health condition, evaluate the issues surrounding disclosure and become acquainted with your rights. See: Disclosing Your Health Condition To Your Employer

Step 4. Think about your other time off

It is possible that you have other benefits at work that permit you to take time off, or that you qualify for time off as a job accommodation under the Americans With Disabilities Act or similar state law?

In order to maximize your time off, preferably with pay, read: How To Maximize Your Benefits If You Need Time Off For Health Reasons
NOTE: An employer has the right to insist you take sick leave and/or vacation time as part of the FMLA leave. Still, you should think through what is best for you. If you want to retain your sick leave or vacation time, you can try to negotiate for it.

Step 5. Learn how you will be expected to pay for your share of your health insurance

While your employer is required by law to continue your health insurance coverage while you are out on approved FMLA leave, you must pay your share. However, the manner by which you must make such payments varies from company to company.

Find out your employer's policy. Some employers will require you to submit periodic payments for your share of the premium during your leave, while others will pay your share for you and deduct it from your salary when you return.

Step 6. Check about the continuation of other benefits while on FMLA leave

Determine whether you are eligible for continuation of benefits other than health insurance by reviewing your employee handbook. Look for provisions under the heading of "leave of absence" or "medical leave of absence," or similar provisions.

  • Find out what benefits your employer provides for other paid and unpaid leaves, and for how long. You will be entitled to such benefits during your FMLA leave. For example, if your employer continues all benefits during a "leave of absence," but limits such leave of absence to 6 weeks, then your employer would not be required to maintain your benefits (except for health insurance) during an approved FMLA leave of absence beyond the first six weeks, even though you may take more than 6 weeks leave under the FMLA.
  • Find out who is responsible for making the premium payments for any benefits you retain during your leave of absence. If an employer continues benefits during your leave of absence, you can be required to cover the cost of these benefits if this is the same procedure for other types of leave.

If you're not eligible for continuation of other benefits, think about which benefits you want to continue and what arguments you can use with your employer to have them continued.  If your employer refuses to pay, consider offering to pay for them yourself-either while on leave or as a deduction from your pay once you return to work.

Step 7. Obtain the necessary medical certification in case your employer requests it.

You have the responsibility of providing your employer with sufficient information and/or medical certification from a healthcare provider regarding your request for leave. Technically, such certification does not have to include your diagnosis.  It will be helpful to ask your doctor or other healthcare provider for certification of your condition and your need for time off before requesting FMLA leave from your employer. If your employer has a form specifically intended for medical certification, be sure to present it to your doctor.

  • If the employer does not have a form, ask your doctor to complete the U.S. Department of Labor form available at offsite link, or contact your local Department of Labor office.
  • If for some reason you don't have either a form from your employer or the Department of Labor's form, ask your doctor to write a letter to your employer, including at least the following points:
    • A description of the health condition
    • The date of diagnosis or the date that treatment became necessary
    • The expected duration of the illness or condition and its' treatment

Requirements concerning health care certification, the definition of a health care provider for FMLA purposes, recertification and certification of fitness to return to duty are discussed in:

Step 8. When you are ready to actually request leave, learn how by clicking here.

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