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Taking FMLA leave to treat depression

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According to the National Health Interview Survey in 2019, over 20% of adults in the United States have been affected by depression. 

Depression has diverse effects on productivity. It slows down one’s potential to work. If you’re suffering from depression, rather than thinking about your job, it’s time to seek help. This is where the role of FMLA comes into play. According to FMLA leave guidelines, depression is covered as a serious mental health disease.

The Family Medical Leave Act lets you take time off from work for depression treatment and to be at your full potential when returning to your job. Under Federal law, an employee suffering from depression can take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave. The law doesn’t allow an employer to stop an employee from exercising their rights to medical leave. Other legal protections provided by FMLA are:

Legal protections provided by FMLA are-

  • Position – An employer cannot fire employees while on leave and must provide them with the same position or an identical one once they are back from their leaves.
  • Health Insurance – In the case of a covered employee, an employer will have to maintain an employee’s health insurance but the employee will have to pay some portion of their health insurance premium while they are off work. If they are unable to pay then the employer can cancel their insurance but will have to allow the employee to re-enroll when they resume work.
  • Privacy – An employer must keep all information regarding each leave, like medical records, confidential and must not be shared with anyone without an employee’s consent. 

How to take FMLA leave for depression

  1. Talk to a mental health care provider: If you need help treating your mental illness, then talk to a licensed professional who can diagnose your condition. In the case where you are diagnosed with any mental illness that might hamper your ability to work, then provide documentation from your healthcare professional to qualify for an FMLA-approved medical leave of absence.
  2. Factors deciding your FMLA eligibility: To qualify for FMLA, you must:
    • Work for a company that has 50 or more employees within a 75-mile distance of your workplace.
    • Worked for the company for at least 1 year and have worked in the last 12 months for 1250 hours.
    Click here  to know more about eligibility requirements.
  3. Talk to your HR representative: Once you know that you are eligible for FMLA, then you should meet someone from the HR department who can help you understand how to take leave for your depression. Every company is different, so before taking leave, it is essential to understand all the available options offered by your employer.
  4. Discuss your plans with your healthcare provider: Once your employer approves your leave, then your doctor is required to fill out specific paperwork. Discuss with your healthcare professional and work out a plan/treatment together to improve your mental health. The factors in determining the legitimacy of treatment for depression under FMLA are:
    • An employee receives care from an inpatient care facility, a hospital, or a residential care facility.
    • An employee is receiving “continuous care” from an authorized health care provider.
     Types of treatments that qualify for FMLA are:
    • Physician-prescribed home rest: In this instance, a doctor prescribes the patient to take leave/rest at home as a form of recovery from a depressive episode. It may also require the employee to leave their job. Personal domicile rest may be required for several weeks, depending on the treatment.
    • Intensive interpersonal therapy: This can cover long sessions with a licensed therapist or a mental healthcare professional that can take place on consecutive days. Insurance coverage can come into effect in cases where sessions take place during work hours.
    • Admission to a Mental Care Facility: In cases where severe depression occurs, employees may be admitted to mental or psychiatric care facilities to remain under observation. If an employee is prescribed to abstain from work, then that employee has the right to take protected leave.
  5. Submit the appropriate paperwork to your employer: Before taking your leave of absence, provide your employer with the appropriate paperwork, including an FMLA form completed by your healthcare provider and a letter of absence.
  6. Inform your employer about how you plan to take your leave: Let your employer know about your entire leave duration and how you plan to take your leaves. Whether you will be off from your work continuously for a few weeks or if you plan to take leaves in chunks.

Manage your company’s FMLA leave guidelines and procedures with Sterling Administration

The above steps might look daunting or too much work; it’s where Sterling Administration comes in. We at Sterling Administration understand that employers are always dealing with a lot of work. So, when they get someone to share their workload, especially work related to FMLA leave, then it’s a big relief for them. Our team of dedicated professionals with comprehensive and up-to-date knowledge of leave laws assists and consults in simplifying and managing the entire leave process for employers. Our full-service leave management support team is dedicated to client service and streamlines the FMLA process from beginning to end. Also, we guide the employees through the FMLA process, answering their queries, reviewing their paperwork, and more.


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