Leave and Absence glossary

Unum’s Leave and Absence solutions glossary is here to help you navigate confusing legal terminology and acronyms surrounding FMLA, employee leave and more. Use this quick reference guide to stay on top of the terms you need to know, so you can spend more time focused on your business.



Absence management

When companies face unexpected leave, Absence Management solutions are key to mitigating the loss of productivity and loss of revenue. From software tracking programs to third-party companies that can implement strategic solutions, businesses have options to utilize help in creative ways.

Accrued paid leave

Many companies offer a paid time off benefit that builds throughout the year. At the end of a 12-month period an employee would have amassed his or her total entitlement of time off given by the company.


The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in employment, transportation, public accommodations, communications, and access to governmental programs, etc. It applies to many areas of the workforce in regard to hiring and mandates accommodations for those with specific needs.

Source: https://www.dol.gov/general/topic/disability/ada.



An important aspect of FMLA is that it also provides job protection for eligible employees who need to take a leave of absence to provide care to an ailing family member. Nearly 40 million Americans serve as unpaid caregivers for other adults.

Source: National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP Public Policy Institute, Caregiving in the U.S., June 2015.


Keeping leave policies on track with ever-changing laws can be a challenge, but it is paramount that companies do so to mitigate legal issues. Due to FMLA noncompliance, in 2014 employers at fault paid a cumulative $2,120,300 in back wages alone, through Department of Labor settlements. That number excludes the fees and additional penalties that employers faced when found at fault.

Source: United States Department of Labor, Wage and Hour Division Fiscal Year Statistics for WHD, 2015.

Corporate leave policies

It’s often beneficial for companies to have a corporate leave policy for employees. These policies need to be compliant with both federal and state laws, which can add complexity to multistate businesses. Many companies add on to the legal mandates in order to make their leave policies more attractive to competitive potential employees.



The Disability Benefits Law (DBL) is a New York regulation under the Workers Compensation regulations. This law created a state disability insurance program that helps provide income replacement for employees who are disabled off the job.

Source: https://www.wcb.ny.gov/content/main/DisabilityBenefits/employee-disability-benefits.jsp.


Elder care

A common reason for FMLA is an employee’s need to provide care to ailing parents. With an aging population, this is an important factor for companies to account for. When anticipating their ability to handle unplanned absences at their company, employers should develop a strategy to prevent productivity disruptions while allowing their employees to care for those who need it most.



The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA) entitles eligible employees of qualifying employers to take unpaid leave for covered reasons, while keeping their job protected. Eligible employees are entitled to 12 work weeks of leave taken within a 12-month period for birth or adoption of a new child, to care for an immediate family member who has a serious health condition, or to deal with a personal health condition that prevents an employee from working. The FMLA also provides certain military family leave entitlements. An eligible employee may take FMLA leave for specified reasons related to certain military developments. Additionally, an eligible employee may take up to 26 weeks of FMLA leave in a single 12-month period to care for a covered service member with a serious injury or illness.

Source: https://www.dol.gov/general/topic/benefits-leave/fmla.



When choosing a third-party company as your leave and absence solution, be sure to find one that releases your business from liability should there be an oversight. Finding a full indemnification solution is the best way to ensure your company is never exposed to legal damages.

Intermittent leave

FMLA provides up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for qualified employees, which can be taken at any point within a 12-month timeframe. This is important to note, because Intermittent Leave can often be the most difficult for companies to manage, due to its irregularity.



Medical Leave and Personal Leave are types of employee absences that employers face. Leave can be unpaid but job-protected by FMLA, or paid by the employer or a government agency.


A leave of absence can often be disruptive to workplace productivity. Third-party companies can often offer assistance to mitigate these disruptions, and are helpful at managing absences to prevent a loss of productivity.


Mental health

The condition of a person’s psychological and emotional well-being. If an employee’s physician certifies that an employee needs a leave of absence due to a mental health condition, employers may be required to honor this under FMLA.


Parental leave

One of the most common causes of FMLA leave is Parental Leave, of which there are three different kinds:

Maternity — Paid or unpaid depending on the company, leave for new birth mothers is protected by FMLA for eligible employees for up to 12 weeks of unpaid time off. Many companies are offering paid leave programs that apply during otherwise unpaid FMLA leaves.

Paternity — Leave for new fathers is also covered by FMLA for eligible employees for up to 12 weeks of unpaid time off. However, some companies are also beginning to match their paid maternity leave offerings to be attractive to younger employees looking for extra benefits.

Adoption — Eligible employees can take FMLA leave for adoption or foster care and may even take this leave before the actual placement of a child as long as the event meets the requirements of the FMLA.


Paid Family Leave (PFL) is an income source for employees who miss time at work primarily due to issues that arise with their family members, such as a family member’s illness. PFL may run concurrently with FMLA if the leave reasons are covered by both and the employee is eligible for both. Whereas FMLA is unpaid job protection, PFL provides a qualifying employee income from an employer, an insurer, or government agency.

Source: https://ttlc.intuit.com/questions/1899523-what-is-paid-family-leave-pfl-2018.


Paid Sick Leave (PSL) can also be associated with PTO (paid time off). This is a common benefit which employers often provide their employees to attract and retain talent, as it is an important factor in job satisfaction. 93% of employees say paid time off is an important or very important contributor to their job satisfaction.

Source: SHRM, Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement: Revitalizing a Changing Workforce, April 2016.


Paid Time Off (PTO) is an important factor for employers who offer benefits in an attempt to attract talented employees and remain competitive. In fact, 87% of employees ranked PTO/vacation/sick time as very or extremely important, the highest of all benefits included in the survey.

Source: LIMRA BEAT Study, January 2023.


State disability laws

Many states have their own disability laws, which can be as varied as they are detailed. Be sure to have an expert at your company, or a third-party resource, track changes in these laws to ensure you remain compliant. This is especially important for businesses that have sites in multiple states.

State leave laws

Regulations for leave policies often vary from state to state, building upon federal mandates. In fact, there are currently only a few remaining states that do not have state leave laws. These state laws add complexity to those in charge of keeping their companies compliant, which is why third-party vendors are often employed to save time and provide indemnity against mistakes.



The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 (USERRA) protects the job rights of individuals who voluntarily or involuntarily leave employment positions to serve in the uniformed services, including certain types of service in the National Disaster Medical System and the Commissioned Corps of the Public Health Service. USERRA also prohibits employers from discriminating against past and present members of the uniformed services and applicants to the uniformed services.

Source: https://osc.gov/Services/Pages/USERRA.aspx.



Workers Compensation (WC) requires employers to pay benefits to an employee who suffers from a work-related injury.

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