10 Types of Leaves of Absence Employees Can Request

May 7, 2024

When it comes to leave of absence (LOA) management, HR professionals are painfully aware there’s much more to consider than just the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). States and cities are passing new leave laws all the time, and with the influx of remote workers, leave managers need to understand the ins and outs of the statutes governing wherever their teams reside.

To make matters more complicated, federal laws like the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA) require employers to provide leave as an accommodation.

At the same time, companies are wielding progressively generous leave policies as tools to attract and retain talent. Employers are creating new frontiers for leave as they adopt new programs not typically required by state or federal law, including sabbaticals, volunteer time, and mental health days.

As the leave landscape grows bigger and more complicated, employees are also more aware of leave as an option and requests are on the rise. That’s why leave managers need to be familiar with the different types of leaves of absence so they can evaluate requests properly and keep their leave programs both compliant and competitive.

What are the different types of leaves of absence?

Bereavement Leave

Bereavement leave policies allow workers experiencing the death of a loved one to take time off work. While bereavement leave is rarely mandated, California law guarantees most employees as many as five days of unpaid leave to mourn a family member.

Each employers’ policies will vary depending on many factors. Organizations may offer paid or unpaid leave for any number of days. The leave may even extend beyond the death of relatives to include friends and, in some cases, pets.

Family and Medical Leave

One of the most common reasons employees need leave is to attend to their health or their families’ health. While the growing number of family and medical leave policies mean more employees can care for themselves and their loved ones, the policies often overlap. This can cause confusion among employers and employees.

The federal Family and Medical Leave Act grants employees up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave each year. To be eligible, employees must have worked for a covered employer for at least 12 months, have at least 1,250 hours of service within the 12-month period before their leave, and work at a location where the employer has at least 50 employees within a 75-mile radius. If a welder at an auto manufacturer breaks her leg, for instance, she could take three weeks off to recover and return to her position, assuming her employer is covered by the FMLA and she was eligible for the leave.

Many employees have access to family and medical leave beyond the FMLA. State paid leave programs are multiplying as well. Oregon, for example, requires certain employers to provide up to 12 weeks of paid leave for family, medical, or safety reasons.

Finally, many individual employers are offering competitive leave policies to attract and retain employees. High-profile companies like Google and Salesforce are famous for their robust parental leave packages, which grant parents months of paid leave to spend with their children.

Crime Victim Leave

Crime victim leave allows employees to take time off of work to deal with legal proceedings and other necessities following a crime event. The Arizona Crime Victim Leave law, for example, allows crime victims to take unpaid time off work to attend court dates.

It’s also important to note the growing prevalence of laws requiring employers to provide domestic violence leave, otherwise referred to as safety leave. Requirements vary, but these statutes typically allow employees time off to get medical attention, attend court, and plan or execute relocation. In some instances, family and medical leave laws like the FMLA may cover time off for employees dealing with health problems resulting from domestic violence.

Of course, individual employers may enact their own leave policies to support employees who have been a victim of crime. These policies may surpass those levied by states and localities by providing more time off and, possibly, paid leave.

Jury Duty Leave

Jury duty leave allows employees to attend jury duty when they are called upon by a court of law. Some states, like Alabama, require employers to provide fully paid leave for jury duty. Other states stipulate more complicated forms of payment. Alabama and other states also bar employers from requiring employees to use vacation days to cover jury duty.

Military Leave

Military leave is complex: It can refer to the leaves of absence members of the military take to serve, or it can refer to the leave provided to military families. It’s important to understand both concepts.

The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act gives all uniformed service members employment and reemployment rights. In essence, this federal law requires employers to provide leaves of absence for employees serving in the armed forces. The act also gives employers some very specific requirements.

But that’s not the only component to military leave. Military families may also have the right to leave under the FMLA. In addition to providing unpaid leave to workers dealing with health issues, the FMLA also makes room for leave for those facing urgent needs arising from a family member’s active military service. These needs may include taking time away from work to attend military events, arrange childcare, manage financial and legal arrangements, attend counseling, and more. Employees may also take military caregiver leave under the FMLA to care for family members who became ill or injured in the line of duty.

Organ or Bone Marrow Donation Leave

When individuals donate bone marrow, they can expect to get back to work, school, and other activities within a few days. Those recovering from organ donation may need more time. In either case, organ or bone marrow donation leave gives donors time away from work to recover. Wisconsin, for example, requires employers with 50 or more employees provide up to six weeks of leave for donors.

Parental Leave

While many family and medical leave policies include parental leave, many employers are carving stand-alone policies that give families paid time off following the birth or adoption of a child. AbsenceSoft’s 2024 forecast report found that 54% of organizations either recently added or planned to offer paid parental leave in the coming year.

As these policies grow in number, they also grow more progressive, inclusive, and competitive. Policies often offer time for physical recovery after birth, in addition to bonding time for moms and dads alike. Companies are also beginning to offer time for both birthing and non-birthing parents, for instance, in an effort to include LGBTQ+ families.

Also on the forefront of parental leave is NICU leave. When babies arrive early or encounter serious health problems at birth, they’re frequently sent to the neonatal intensive care unit, or the NICU. Parents of NICU babies often camp out by their babies’ cribs and incubators as their little ones grow stronger. NICU leave makes their lives a little easier by providing  additional time off work as they face an unexpected, unpredictable time in the hospital. Bobbie, an infant formula company, offers 16 weeks of paid leave for parents whose baby is in the NICU, on top of its typical parental leave package.

Caregiver Leave

Caregiver leave is specifically designed to give employees time off work to care for family members. It’s important to note that eligible workers can access leave to care for seriously ill family members through the FMLA and other statutes like it. And parental leave is normally designated for parents caring for new babies or recently adopted children.

Caregiver leave policies are specifically structured to provide leave for employees caring for children, parents, or other family members who are seriously ill or injured. Some states like Colorado and Connecticut have enacted family leave insurance programs designed to provide workers at least some pay while they take time off to care for family.

Pregnancy Leave

Parental leave policies often give working mothers time to recover from birth, but they typically don’t address the needs that arise leading up to baby’s arrival during pregnancy. Enter: Pregnancy leave. Pregnancy leave typically offers birthing parents time off to attend doctor’s appointments, ultrasounds, and more. But there’s sometimes an element of accommodation in these policies, as well.

Consider the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA). This federal law, passed in 2022, requires employers to provide workplace accommodations for pregnant workers. This law overlaps with the Americans with Disabilities Act, or ADA, which doesn’t consider pregnancy to be a disability but does consider some health conditions created by pregnancy to be a disability.

The PWFA requires employers to provide pregnant workers leave as a reasonable accommodation as they face complications that may arise during pregnancy, childbirth and postpartum.

Disability Leave

Disability leave gives employees time off work in conjunction with a disability. Disabilities may be short- or long-term conditions, and employers often create separate buckets of leave for each type.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a federal law that requires employers to make reasonable accommodations for employees with disabilities. The act does not provide leave for employees, but it does require employers to provide leave as a reasonable accommodation in certain circumstances. The ADA may also require access to intermittent leave as an accommodation for workers with disabilities that come and go.

Under the ADA, a disability is defined as a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, including eating, speaking, and breathing; walking, standing, and lifting; and working, reading, and communicating. These impairments can include physical disabilities, like blindness or deafness, and mental disabilities, like anxiety and depression.

Like the ADA, the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA) also requires employers to make accommodations, this time for pregnant workers specifically. Accommodations for pregnant workers under the PWFA can also include leave.


From parental leave to jury duty leave, the multiplying, overlapping types of leaves of absence make life challenging for HR pros and leave managers.

It’s not just the growing statutes and policies that complicate leave management: It’s the rising number of leave requests, too. For the second year in a row, AbsenceSoft has found that most (62%) HR managers are seeing an increase in leave requests. Of those who reported an increase, 75% saw the number of leave requests increase by 20% or more.

It’s critical that HR teams don’t relegate leave management to spreadsheets and post-it notes. Overburdened HR teams need a technology solution that can boost efficiency with automation and instantly calculate leave eligibility.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by leave management, or if you have questions about leave of absence, schedule a demo with AbsenceSoft.