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Depression and a Leave of Absence

According to, about 18.8 million Americans suffer from depression in any given year, and depression is the leading cause of disability in the U.S. Of course, many people with depression would not be considered disabled. They work at a variety of professions and live full lives. However, sometimes employees with depression may have difficulty working and need to take a leave of absence to heal.

Reasons for a Leave of Absence

People experiencing a serious depressive episode may find it difficult to work. Symptoms of depression often include difficulty concentration, problems with short-term memory, withdrawing from others and lack of interest in all activities. Of course, these things can interfere with performing job duties properly. People with severe depression may also appear weepy, overly emotional or irritable, which may cause them to have difficulty getting along with coworkers or interacting appropriately with customers. People with severe depression may need time off work to receive treatment, as well, especially if they require hospitalisation for their condition.

Length of Leave

The length of a leave of absence for depression will vary depending on the employee's condition. Some employees might need only a few days off while others may need a few weeks or a few months.

Family and Medical Leave Act

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) requires covered employers to allow qualified employees up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave per year due to a medical condition, including depression. FMLA does not cover all employers. For instance, employers must have at least 50 employees to be covered by this law. Qualified employees must have worked for their employer for at least 12 months and must have worked at least 1,250 hours during the previous 12 months. The law requires employers to hold an employee's job or to give them an equivalent job when they return from their leave of absence.

Other Leaves

If an employee does not qualify for FMLA or has used up all of his FMLA time for the year, he may be able to take a leave of absence for depression anyway. Some employers allow employees to take leaves of absence for medical reasons, even if not required to do so by law.

Requesting a Leave

To request a leave of absence for depression, employees should contact the human resources department of their employers. If employees are not sure whether they qualify for FMLA, someone in human resources can let them know. If employees do not qualify for FMLA, they should ask if they can still take a leave of absence if necessary. Employers usually require employees to complete some paperwork requesting a leave. To receive FMLA, employees will need to have their physician complete some paperwork, as well. Employees do not have to tell their employers they need a leave of absence due to depression if they prefer to keep their diagnosis private.