The Family and Medical Leave Act, also known as FMLA (F-M-L-A), is a federal law designed to help employees balance their work and family responsibilities. It allows certain employees with family obligations or medical conditions to receive up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave per year. It also requires that group health benefits be maintained during the leave. Generally, you're entitled to an FMLA leave in cases of the birth and care of a newborn child, placement of a son or daughter for adoption or foster care, caring for an immediate family member with a serious health condition, or serious health problems that inhibit you from working. However, to be eligible for FMLA benefits, you must work for an employer covered under the Act for a total of 12 months and have worked at least 1,250 (one thousand two hundred and fifty) hours over the previous 12 months. FMLA generally applies to all public agencies, including state, local and federal employers, schools, and private-sector employers who have 50 or more employees. When you seek an FMLA leave, you're required to provide 30-day advance notice when the need is foreseeable. If the need for leave is not foreseeable 30 days in advance, you should give whatever notice is possible, ordinarily within one or two business days of when you learn of the need for your leave. The employer may require that you provide medical certification issued by your health care provider to support your request. Upon return from FMLA leave, your employer must restore you to your original job, or to an equivalent job with equivalent pay, benefits, and other terms and conditions of employment. Remember that a number of states have also enacted family and medical leave laws, some of which provide greater amounts of leave and benefits than those provided by FMLA, or provide benefits to employees who are not eligible for FMLA leave.