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FMLA Implementation

August 10, 2007 - A recent report from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) has found that nearly 40 per cent of human resource (HR) professionals have experienced problems with implementation of the Family and Medical Leave Act 1993 (FMLA). The survey of 521 companies from all sectors suggests that original intention of the FMLA, to secure the position of employees needing unpaid leave for serious personal reasons, has not been followed consistently and inappropriate leave has been authorized as a result.

Mike Aitken, director of governmental affairs for SHRM commented:

"This new SHRM study reaffirms the need for clarifications and improvements to FMLA."

The survey found that requests for FMLA leave have increased in the last five years, particularly for episodic conditions (ongoing injuries or illnesses, and/or non-life threatening conditions). The main reasons for taking leave were:

  • medical (59 per cent)
  • family (38 per cent), and
  • an episodic condition (38 per cent)

The number of organizations offering job-protected leave in excess of FMLA regulations has fallen from 59 per cent in 2003 to 44 per cent in 2007.

Respondents agreed that the FMLA can have a negative impact on employee absences (63 per cent) or productivity (55 per cent) and business productivity (54 per cent). Sick time is offered by 55 per cent of organizations as part of a paid time-off plan that includes vacation and personal days, while 37 per cent offer sick time as a separate benefit. Nearly nine out of 10 organizations assigned work normally undertaken by an employee on FMLA leave to other employees.

Organizations found administration of intermittent FMLA leave and determining the costs incurred in the process of compliance represented the biggest challenges. Many HR professionals commented that the timing of leave requests (e.g. linked to weekends or good weather) raised suspicions that the system was being abused.

Susan R. Meisinger, president and chief executive officer of SHRM said:

"The FMLA is long overdue for a check-up to ensure it serves the best interests of our employees' health and well being. The SHRM study provides insight into what front-line HR professionals are encountering and highlights the need for change."

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