What is FMLA?
FMLA stands for the Family and Medical Leave Act, which is a 1993 law that guarantees covered employees up to twelve weeks of unpaid leave in the event of certain situations related to health and family such as injury or illness. Employers must continue to provide benefits for the employee during their leave and have the same job or similar equivalent available to them once they return. Anyone who works for any government or educational agency is eligible for FMLA, as well as anyone who works for a private employer that has 50 or more people employed for at least 20 weeks per year.
Basics of the benefits of FMLA
An employee at an eligible organization qualifies for protected time off through FMLA once they have worked for at least 1,250 hours over the course of 12 months with their employer. Employees are entitled to FMLA leave even if they do not specifically state that they are taking FMLA leave. While the time off employees receive from FMLA is fairly straightforward, the situations that qualify can seem complicated to new managers. Protected employees can take up to 12 weeks of consecutive or non-consecutive FMLA leave per year for any of the following reasons:
- Birth, adoption or foster care placement of a child within 12 months of their arrival
- Serious personal medical condition
- Needing to care for a family member with a serious medical condition
- Needing to care for a covered member of the military with a serious medical condition
Best practices for managers
Managers are legally required to inform their employees about FMLA if they are in a situation that may qualify. They also may have to navigate company policy in addition to federal labor laws and help determine whether a leave request is legitimate. As a manager, your goal is to ensure that employees receive the support they are entitled to and that operations run smoothly while an employee is taking their leave.
Here are some of the best practices for managers when they think an employee may be eligible for FMLA:
- Review the facts
- Understand company procedure
- Respond to requests in a timely manner
- Communicate with human resources
- Redistribute employee responsibilities
Review the facts
Whether an employee approaches you asking for FMLA leave or you hear secondhand about an employee’s absence that may qualify, review the facts of their situation and determine whether they may qualify. Check the list of situations that qualify for FMLA and ensure that theemployee has been working with your company long enough to receive their benefits.
Understand company procedure
Each company may have its own policies and procedures for processing an employee absence request. For example, some companies may require that an employee use their accrued sick time during the FMLA leave. Others may ask for an official certification of FMLA leave. Spend some time learning about how your company keeps track of leave requests and any other policies related to employee leave.
Related:How to Create a Time Off Policy
Respond to requests in a timely manner
Unless an urgent situation suddenly occurs, employees are expected to give 30 days notice if they plan to take FMLA leave. If an emergency does occur, they are still eligible for FMLA and their manager should immediately initiate the process of confirming their leave. Responding to employee requests in a timely manner helps ensure that they receive their benefits and that your organization is complying with federal law. Whether you have to approve or reject a time-off request, you should quickly communicate your decision with employees.
Communicate with human resources
Notifying your company’s HR department of a possible FMLA leave is an important part of managing employee benefits. FMLA also includes a variety of exceptions for key employees or other special circumstances that can be confusing for managers. if you are ever unsure about whether a situation qualifies for FMLA it is best to check with a human resources professional as to your next steps as a manager. Regular communication with HR keeps all parties accountable when processing FMLA benefits.
Redistribute employee responsibilities
Once you are aware that an employee is taking FMLA leave, prepare to redistribute their responsibilities among other employees during their absence. Many companies hire part-time or temporary workers to keep operations running smoothly while an employee is on leave. Create a plan for coveringthe employee’s work during their absence and transitioning them back into their duties once they return to work.
Because FMLA includes several requirements and exceptions, you should always research any questions you have before making a decision about an employee’s leave. Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about FMLA:
Can FMLA be denied?
FMLA can be denied if it is misused or requested for a reason that is not covered by the law. Because covered employees are entitled to FMLA benefits if they qualify, carefully consider the facts of a situation before denying FMLA leave.
What qualifies as a serious health condition?
The definition of a serious health condition can vary, but it generally includes any medical condition, injury or chronic illness that prevents an employee from working for three or more days.
Are FMLA days paid?
The law does not require employers to pay employees for their FMLA leave, although some employers pay employees for their FMLA leave as a benefit while they are on leave.