While people’s jobs are often important to them, they are, many times, not the most important things in their lives. People have families — children, parents and spouses — who they love and take care of. When a family member gets sick, however, people can feel torn. They may feel like they are unable to work because they are needed by their family members while feeling an obligation to their jobs.

The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) helps some California employees in this situation. The FMLA gives certain employees the right to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave from their jobs without fear of termination. During this leave, the employer must keep the employee’s job available to the employee. However, employers are not under an obligation to pay employees during this time.

Just like employers have rules that must be followed when it comes to FMLA leave, so do employees. In order to take advantage of FMLA leave, employees must give appropriate notice to their employers. According to the Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division, specific notice requirements must be given in order to use FMLA leave and still receive job protection.

Under these rules, an employee must notify an employer of the person’s intention to take FMLA leave. The amount of notice required depends on the specific facts in the case. If an accident requires immediate leave, then you must notify your employer as soon as possible. If your own medical condition makes it impossible for you to give notice, then workplace procedures for calling in sick must be followed. This could mean a family member needs to notify your employer.

If a situation requires you to take a leave of absence beginning in fewer than 30 days, then you must immediately inform your employer. Under the rules, this means telling your employer the day you learn of the need for leave, or the next day. If you know that you need to take leave more than 30 days before the leave, then you must give at least 30 days’ notice of your intention to take leave to your employer.

While it is important to understand these general rules, please note that this blog post should only be used as information and not specific legal advice. An attorney can help people determine if they are entitled to FMLA leave and how best to protect their rights.