FMLA vs. Paid Family Leave: Comparison

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FMLA vs. Paid Family Leave: Key Differences and Similarities

FMLA vs. Paid Family Leave: Key Differences and Similarities

We all need to take time off from work to attend to our family, personal, and medical needs. That’s why as an employee, you have probably heard of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and Paid Family Leave (PFL). Although they sound similar, these two are not the same. The question is – what is the difference between Paid Family Leave and FMLA leave?

Well, the answer is not as simple as you think. The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is a federal law that was enacted in 1993 that provides eligible employees with unpaid, job-protected leave for specific family and medical reasons. Paid Family Leave (PFL) refers to a state-specific program that provides paid time off for employees to bond with a new child, care for a seriously ill family member, or tend to their own health condition.

Knowing the differences and similarities between paid family leave and FMLA is necessary for financial stability. It allows you to understand your rights and benefits as an employee. It also helps you understand the legal obligations and responsibilities of your employer.

An Overview of the Family and Medical Leave Act

The FMLA provides crucial job protection for employees facing significant family and medical situations. But only eligible employees can enjoy its benefits. To be eligible for FMLA, as an employee, you must:

  • Work for a covered employer.
  • Have worked for the employer for at least 12 months.
  • Have accumulated at least 1,250 hours of service during the previous 12 months.

Under the Family and Medical Leave Act, eligible employees can get up to 12 weeks of leave in 12 months. You can take this leave for various reasons, including:

  • Birth and care of a newborn child.
  • Adoption or foster care placement of a child.
  • Care for an immediate family member (spouse, child, or parent) with a serious health condition.
  • Care for your own serious health condition renders you incapable of doing your job.
  • Qualifying emergencies arising from a family member’s deployment in the military.
  • Care for a covered service member with a serious injury or illness.

An Overview of Paid Family Leave

PFL programs vary by state, as they are enacted at the state level, not by the federal government. Naturally, each state sets its own guidelines regarding eligibility, duration of leave, and the portion of wages covered during the leave period.

But unlike the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which offers unpaid leave, PFL ensures that employees receive a portion of their regular salary while on time off.

Of course, you have to be an eligible employee to enjoy the benefits of PFL, and not all states even offer PFL. Currently, only 11 states do. Their eligibility criteria often consider factors such as the employee’s work history, earnings, and reason for taking leave. But again, these factors may vary from state to state.

What Is the Difference between Paid Family Leave and FMLA?

Although both address employee leaves for family and medical reasons, paid family leave and FMLA are two distinct provisions. You do not automatically have one if you have the other even if your state offers both.

Nature of Leave

PFL provides paid time off, allowing eligible employees to receive a portion of their regular salary while on leave for qualifying family and medical purposes. However, FMLA provides unpaid leave for eligible employees.

Job Protection

Yes, both PFL and FMLA provide job protection. According to the FMLA, eligible employees can return to their position or an equivalent one after their leave. While PFL may offer some job protection, it is not always as good as the one offered by FMLA. It varies from state to state.


As FMLA is a federal law, it covers all eligible employees nationwide. But the PFL covers only eligible employees in a specific state. Not all the states in the U.S. have PFL programs. As of now, only 11 states, including California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Washington, and the District of Columbia offer paid family and medical leave.

Key Similarities between Paid Family Leave and FMLA

Just like differences, there are a few striking similarities between PFL and FMLA. Here are a few things that you should know regarding this.

Leave Reasons

PFL and FMLA allow employees to take leave for qualifying family and medical reasons. They may include the birth or adoption of a child, caring for a seriously ill family member, or addressing a serious health condition of your own.

Job Protection

PFL and FMLA both provide job protection for eligible employees when they take leave. In other words, you can return to your job or an equivalent position after your time off ends. Both laws protect employees from adverse employment actions due to their absence.

Parental Bonding

This is another similarity between PFL and FMLA. Both recognize the importance of parental bonding, allowing eligible employees to take leave of a newborn child, whether through birth, adoption, or foster care.

Leave Duration

As an eligible employee, you may get up to 12 weeks of leave within a designated period under FMLA and PFL. But immediately speak with experienced FMLA Lawyers in Atlanta, GA. They can help you understand your situation better.

Employee Eligibility

Finally, only eligible PFL and FMLA employees can use their respective benefits. Of course, the eligibility criteria for both may not be the same, so you must satisfy a few factors to receive all of these benefits.

Contact the FMLA Lawyers at Barrett & Farahany Today

As an employee, you have the right to time off to care for your newborn child, sick family member, or even for your own health. The good news is, if you are eligible, you can take up to 12 weeks of time off through FMLA or PFL, whichever is applicable. Hopefully, this post will help you understand the most beneficial option.

If you are not getting your FMLA leave despite qualifying for it or think your employer is violating FMLA, you can seek help from Barrett & Farahany immediately. Contact our FMLA violations lawyers today.

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