Taking Time Off Work to Donate a Kidney
If you are employed and are considering becoming a living kidney donor, you’ll need to take some time off work. Most kidney donors require between one and four days to recover in the hospital and a few weeks to recover at home.
Most people can be back at work within six weeks, but very few people have that much vacation and/or sick time, and even if they did, using all of it for kidney donation surgery and recovery would leave them with no time for vacation, family events and personal time.
Fortunately, there are several options available to kidney donors who need to take time off work.
Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is a federal law that allows eligible employees to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave annually for specific family or medical reasons, including organ donation. During FMLA leave, your job is protected, and your employer must maintain your group health insurance. In general, to qualify for FMLA, you must work for a company with at least 50 employees and have worked for the company for at least one year.
Paid Time Off and Sick Leave
Many employees have accrued paid time off or sick leave that can be used for medical purposes, including kidney donation. Check your company’s policy to see if these benefits can be used for organ donation, and if so, how to apply for them.
Short-Term Disability Insurance
Some employers offer short-term disability, which is a type of insurance that pays you a portion of your salary (usually around half) when you need to take time away from work for injury, illness, or other medical reasons. Only five states require employers to offer short-term disability insurance—California, Hawaii, New Jersey, New York, and Rhode Island—but many employers offer it voluntarily. Unlike with time off through FMLA, your job is not protected while you are on short-term disability. If you are interested in using short-term disability for your kidney donation, consult your employer for specifics.
Organ Donor Leave Policies
There is no federal mandate that requires U.S. employers to provide employees with organ donor leave. However, some states do have laws requiring employers to provide organ donor leave to employees who are donating organs. Following are some state policies on organ donor leave:
- Arkansas: All private employers must grant organ donors unpaid leave up to 90 days.
- California: Private employers with 15+ employees must grant up to 30 days of paid leave for organ donation.
- Connecticut: Employers must provide up to 16 weeks of unpaid leave for organ donation.
- Hawaii: Employers with 50+ employees must offer up to 30 days paid leave for organ donation.
- Minnesota: Employers with 20+ employees must grant up to 30 hours paid leave for organ donation.
- Wisconsin: Employees who have worked for an employer with 50+ employees for at least one year are entitled to up to six weeks unpaid leave for organ donation.
To learn more about state-specific labor laws or organ donation laws in your state, consult with a legal expert or a transplant center in your state.
Government jobs tend to offer more allowances to employees who want to become living donors than those with private companies. For example, federal employees can use up to 30 days of paid leave each calendar year to serve as an organ donor, in addition to annual and sick leave. Most states allow state employees extra time off for organ donations, but the laws vary widely. Some offer extra unpaid time off, while others offer extra paid time off ranging from one to 30 days.
Negotiating Time Off
If your employer doesn’t have a specific policy for organ donation, you can discuss your situation with your HR department or supervisor. Many employers are willing to work with employees on a case-by-case basis to accommodate organ donation.
Voluntary Employer Programs
With the increasing awareness of the need for living donors, some employers have willingly joined programs offering extended leave to employees who want to become donors. American Society of Transplantation’s Living Donor Circle of Excellence is a corporate recognition program that celebrates companies helping to eliminate barriers to living donation by implementing paid leave policies for living organ donors. See a full list of members here.
Donating a kidney is an amazing gift that can change someone’s life. While it does require taking time off work, knowing your options before you start the process can make the kidney donation experience easier.