What are the different types of leave from work?

There are 6 types of leave that you must offer employees.

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Regardless of location, size, and industry, companies must have a clear policy regarding the different types of leave from work. Not only does this benefit the employer, but it’s helpful to any employee who may take advantage of one or more types of leave in the future.

Here are some of the most important questions to answer:

  • What types of leave from work do you currently offer employees?
  • What types of leave are you considering adding?
  • Are there any federal or state-mandated leaves that apply to your organization?
  • Who is eligible for each type of leave?
  • How do employees apply for leaves?

With a comprehensive leave policy that’s shared in an employee handbook, employees have the knowledge needed to take a leave for everything from vacation to a medical emergency (and that’s just the start).

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The many types of leave of absence from work

There are some types of leave that you have to offer employees, as well as those that are optional. Let’s start with the six types of leave that companies must provide. 

1. The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)

The U.S. Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division defines FMLA as follows:

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) entitles eligible employees of covered employers to take unpaid, job-protected leave for specified family and medical reasons. This fact sheet provides general information about which employers are covered by the FMLA, when employees are eligible and entitled to take FMLA leave, and what rules apply when employees take FMLA leave.

FMLA only applies to employers and employees that meet specific requirements. 

2. Military leave

Thanks to the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA), employers must allow an employee who is a uniformed service member to return to their job after serving or training. 

3. Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) leave

The ADA does not mandate a specific leave amount, however, employers are required to provide reasonable accommodation for some disabilities. A short-term leave of absence may be necessary to make this accommodation. 

4. Jury duty

There are laws in place to protect employees serving on a federal jury. Businesses are not permitted to take adverse action against an employee who is required to serve. There’s no federal requirement stating that nonexempt employees must be paid while on jury duty, but state and local laws may come into play. 

5. Workers’ compensation leave

If an employee is injured on the job and is receiving workers’ compensation as a result, they must be granted protected leave until they’re able to return. 

6. Religious observance

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act protects employees from religious discrimination. So, if an employee needs time off for religious observation—based on religious accommodation—it must be granted by the employer. 

Note: not all employers have to provide each type of leave, as there are requirements associated with each one. For example, FMLA only applies to private-sector employers with 50 or more employees. 

The following types of leaves from work are mandated at the local and/or state levels. Some of them are optional, meaning that employers do not have to offer them to employees but do so as a benefit. 

Common types of leave in this category include:

  • Vacation leave
  • Sick leave
  • Parental leave
  • Bereavement
  • Adoption leave
  • Temporary disability leave
  • Child care
  • Volunteer work or community service
  • Personal leave
  • Administrative leave
  • Adverse weather
  • Mental health
  • Medical appointments

Note: whether these leaves are paid or unpaid depends on local/state laws and company policy. There are many types of paid leave from work (also known as PTO) that allow you to be paid even when you’re not doing your job. Vacation days and sick days are two of the most common examples. 

What about other countries?

The above sections cover the different types of leave from work in the United States, but are not applicable in other parts of the world. 

Here are some examples of how things differ in other countries:

  • Female employees in Italy are eligible to receive five months of paid maternity leave. 
  • The right to disconnect is becoming more common in Europe, with France, Belgium, Italy, Spain, Greece, and Slovakia implementing legislation in 2021.
  • Starting on August 1, 2022, all new parents in the Netherlands are guaranteed a minimum of nine weeks of paid parental leave.

If you have a distributed team, you must understand the many types of leave that are legally required in each country. 


With so many federal, state, and local regulations to consider—along with different types of PTO and unpaid time off—it can be a challenge to keep up.

At Oyster, we have created global hiring guides that outline types of leave, best hiring practices, legal holidays, and more. With this information at your disposal, it’s easier to hire and manage employees across the globe.

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