The federal Family and Medical Leave Act, or FMLA, provides eligible employees with unpaid, job-protected leave to take care of certain family and medical situations. The FMLA helps employees balance the demands of their jobs with health needs and family commitments. As a supervisor, you need to know whether, when, and how FMLA applies to your company so you can stay in compliance with the law.
FMLA is a detailed topic. Let’s take a look at five fast facts that can help you understand the basics.
1. FMLA applies only to certain groups, including private sector employers who employ 50 or more employees for 20 or more weeks in the current or preceding calendar year, all public agencies, and all private and public elementary and secondary schools no matter their size.
2. Only certain employees are eligible to take FMLA leave. To be eligible for FMLA leave, an employee must work for a covered employer and must have worked for that employer for at least 12 months. The employee also must have worked at least 1,250 hours during the 12 months prior to the start of the FMLA leave. Finally, to be eligible for leave, the employee must work at a location where at least 50 employees are employed at the location or within 75 miles of the location.
3. FMLA requires covered employers to provide eligible employees up to a total of 12 weeks of unpaid leave in a 12-month period for certain reasons including the birth and care of a newborn or newly adopted child; to care for an immediate family member with a serious health condition, and when the employee is unable to work because of a serious health conditions. FMLA also provides special family military leave entitlements for eligible employees. A covered employer is required to maintain group health insurance coverage, including family coverage, for an employee on FMLA leave on the same terms as if the employee continued to work. Upon return from FMLA leave, an employee generally must be restored to his or her original job, or to an "equivalent" job, which means virtually identical to the original job in terms of pay, benefits, and other employment terms and conditions.
4. When requesting leave for the first time for an FMLA-qualifying reason, an employee does not need to specifically mention FMLA. The employee should give a verbal notice sufficient to make the employer aware of the need for FMLA-qualifying leave, but in all cases the employer should inquire further of the employee if it is necessary to have more information about whether FMLA leave is being sought by the employee, and obtain the necessary details of the leave to be taken. Of course, there are many instances, such as the birth of a child or scheduled medical treatment, where both the employer and employee know and plan specifically for FMLA leave.
5. Employers covered by FMLA are required to post information in the workplace explaining rights and responsibilities under the law, and to formally respond to a request for FMLA leave—or when the employer obtains knowledge that the leave may be for an FMLA-qualifying reason—within five business days.
While FMLA does take some time to administer, it has proven to be well worth the effort. According to a U.S. Department of Labor study, employers say that complying with FMLA is relatively easy. FMLA may also have a positive impact on employee absenteeism, turnover, and morale. Successful administration of FMLA depends heavily on understanding the qualifying reasons for leave and gathering supporting documentation. To learn more about FMLA, and a variety of other HR and benefits management issues, visit us online at HR360.com.