A common question I’m asked by employees who contact me is whether they are entitled to be paid while on FMLA leave. The short answer to that question is no. The twelve weeks of annual FMLA entitlement are specifically defined as unpaid by the FMLA. However, that does not mean that employees who are on FMLA leave never get paid.
Employees who have earned and accrued paid leave such as vacation time, sick leave, or PTO may elect to use their paid leave concurrently with their FMLA leave. Likewise, employers may require the employee to use their earned and accrued paid leave concurrently with their FMLA leave.
Additionally, many companies offer short and/or long term disability coverage to their employees. Although FMLA leave and disability benefits are two entirely different things, employees who are on FMLA leave often also qualify for short and/or long term disability. In those instances, an employee may be able to receive disability benefits from the disability carrier while they are off work due to an FMLA-qualifying condition.
Some companies have taken these concepts even further and have elected to pay their employees while they are on FMLA leave. This is a policy that more companies should consider even though it is not required by the FMLA. Dealing with a serious health condition, whether it’s the employee themselves or an immediate family member, is difficult enough without the added pressures created by a loss or reduction in the employee’s income while they are on FMLA leave.