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FMLA: 5 Facts You HR Should Know

By Arleen Atienza


Image Source: Unsplash

December 27 2021 - It is the responsibility of both the managers and the HR employees to take note of the leave requests and process them for their employees. The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is one of the key regulations on leaves. What do you need to know when it comes to this mandate? Here are some important facts about FMLA as well as considerations for HR professionals.

What is the FMLA?

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is a labor regulation that requires employers to provide their employees with unpaid time off for serious family health crises or situations. The FMLA mandates covered businesses to grant from 12 weeks to 36 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leaves to eligible employees.

What are the types of leaves of absences?

There are two types of leaves: voluntary and mandatory. Voluntary leaves of absence are not needed by law. Employees are given these leaves of absence as a courtesy or as part of a collective bargaining agreement with a labor organization. Employees who have used up all of their vacation time and do not otherwise qualify for required leave are frequently offered medical or personal breaks by their employers. A personal leave of absence may be given.

On the other hand, A mandatory leave of absence is governed by federal and/or state regulations, such as the FMLA, which we will get to discuss in this article. The number of employees working for your firm are typically used to determine whether the legislation surrounding these leaves of absence applies to your workers. In these circumstances, you must provide qualified employees with job-protected leave.

Things you need to know about the FMLA

1. What situations necessitate the FMLA?

The Wage and Hour Division (WHD) of the Department of Labor, which enforces the FMLA, described four scenarios in which a worker may be eligible for FMLA leave:

  • A child's birth or placement.
  • Caring for a spouse, child, or parent who is suffering from a terrible illness (which includes "incapacity due to pregnancy and for prenatal medical care," according to DOL).
  • The employee's serious health condition (which includes "incapacity due to pregnancy and for prenatal medical treatment," according to the DOL), which prevents him or her from performing the job's essential tasks.
  • Any qualifying need connected to a spouse, child, or parent who is on covered active duty or has been called to covered active duty status.

2. Which employees are eligible for the FMLA?

Unfortunately, FMLA is not available to everyone. Employees must first work for an FMLA-covered company. Private companies, government bodies, and schools are among them, according to WHD.

Furthermore, employees must then prove that they are eligible. An employee must have worked for their firm for 12 months, accumulated over the span of 7 years. In addition to this, employees must also have worked 1,250 hours during the previous 12 month prior to the period they need to take leave.

3. What are the job benefits and protection that are under the FMLA?

There are several benefits the FMLA offers to the employees covered under it. Here are some of the benefits that it offers:

  • The employer must retain the employee's health coverage under any "group health plan" for the duration of FMLA leave.
  • Most employees must be reinstated to their former or equivalent positions upon returning from FMLA leave, with comparable salary, benefits, and other employment terms.
  • Any employment benefit accrued prior to the start of an employee's FMLA absence cannot be lost if the employee takes FMLA leave.

4. Managers should coordinate with HR in a timely manner

When managers become aware that an employee is asking time off for a medical problem, they should be instructed to tell HR. They should also be aware that employees with serious illnesses may be eligible for FMLA leave. In turn, it is up to the HR to process these leaves either manually or using automation tools and other helpful technology to reduce strain in the HR department.

When the leave is "foreseeable," the employee must usually give 30 days' notice. An employer can require medical certification to support a request for leave due to a serious health condition, as well as second or third opinions (at the employer's expense) and a fitness for duty report before the employee returns to work.

Keep in mind that FMLA leave can be intermittent. FMLA leave isn't always for a long period of time; a few absences can still be covered. Managers must be able to distinguish between intermittent FMLA leave and ordinary sick days.

5. Do employees need a medical certificate?

According to the FMLA, an employer can require an employee to provide a timely, comprehensive, and appropriate medical certification to support a request for FMLA leave due to a significant health condition. Employees must return completed medical certificates to HR within 15 calendar days of receiving the form, or as soon as is reasonable under the circumstances.

While HR should handle medical certifications, managers should be informed of the process, including the likelihood that the employer would seek second and third opinions. This is to ensure a comprehensive flow of communication between HR and the middle managers.

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