When you get married, you and your spouse agree to love and support each other in sickness and in health. If your spouse suffers an injury, they may have to take a leave of absence from their work while they recover.

Whether they simply need an opportunity to rest because of a soft tissue injury or require surgery, they may have workers’ compensation or temporary disability benefits to cover a portion of their missed wages and possibly the medical care associated with their injury. However, even with those benefits, your spouse may still need help and support during their recovery.

If their condition isn’t severe enough to justify an insurance company covering skilled nursing care in your home, you may have no choice but to take time off of work to care for your spouse. Do you have protection if you need an extended leave of absence?

Federal law protects you when you need to care for a family member

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is a federal law that protects the right of workers to take unpaid leave in specific situations. FMLA allows people to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for their own medical needs, including the birth or adoption of a child.

A worker can also qualify for the same amount of leave if they need to provide care for a loved one such as a spouse or a child. If your spouse is a military service member, your right to leave may increase to as much as 26 weeks of unpaid leave. 

Do you qualify for FMLA leave?

Not every employee qualifies for FMLA leave, and not every employer has to offer it. In order for you as an individual employee to qualify, you must have been employed by the company for at least the last 12 months and need to have worked at least 1,250 hours in the last year for the company. For the company to be subject to the provisions of the FMLA, they need to have 50 employees that have worked for at least 20 weeks in the last year.

If your employer is subject to the law and your situation qualifies you for FMLA leave, then your employer should allow you to take unpaid leave as necessary and then to return to your same job or a similar one without any sort of penalty or retaliation.