The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is a crucial lifeline for millions of American families each year. In fact, 20 million people take advantage of FMLA each year.
Many Americans use this family-friendly law to take care of a newborn or adopted child. Others use FMLA to care for loved ones who are sick or injured. In some cases, employees take FMLA to recover from a personal injury or illness.
Read on for a comprehensive guide to the FMLA guidelines. Explore facts about the FMLA program and everything that human resources need to know for compliance purposes.
What is the FMLA?
Before we get into FMLA guidelines, it is important to under the history behind the law. Also, we will cover what the law is intended to accomplish.
The FMLA was passed by the United States Congress in 1993. Shortly after, President Bill Clinton signed the legislation and instructed the Department of Labor to publish FMLA guidelines.
The law was necessary to protect America’s most vulnerable workers. In the past, many women were laid off while they were pregnant or after delivering a child. Sick or injured workers were also vulnerable to unfairly losing their jobs.
The intent of the FMLA was to promote a healthy and fair work-life balance. It protects against employer abuse by allowing an employee to use unpaid leave to care for themselves or a family member.
What Benefits Are Afforded by the FMLA?
The U.S. Department of Labor published FMLA guidelines to define what benefits employees are legally entitled to. In a 12-month period, employees are allowed to take 12 weeks of unpaid leave.
Some employees mistakenly compare FMLA leave to paid time off. This is not a good comparison as FMLA is clearly an unpaid benefit.
There are a number of medical reasons that fall under the FMLA program. One of the most prominent examples is expectant mothers and supporting fathers.
Within the first year of birth, parents are allowed to use FMLA to care for their newborn baby. A similar time period also applies to parents who adopt or foster a child. In fact, 21 percent of FMLA recipients do so to care for newborn or adopted children.
FMLA coverage also applies to employees who are caring for a sick spouse, parent, or child. The individual must have a serious health condition as covered by the FMLA guidelines.
The law also covers employees who are sick or injured, especially if it impacts their ability to perform the job. There are also provisions of the law that cover employees with an immediate family member on active military duty.
What Are the Eligibility Requirements?
To be eligible for FMLA, the applicant needs to be an active employee of the company. They need to have accrued 12 months of service time working for the employer.
More specifically on time served, the employees need to have worked at least 1,250 hours for the employer. In addition, the employer needs to meet certain size requirements. Within a 75-mile radius, the employer needs to have at least 50 employees to be considered eligible.
What Dependent Family Members Fall Under FMLA?
You cannot take FMLA to care for a distant relative or family friend. The U.S. Department of Labor carefully defines immediate family members to prevent this from occurring.
Immediate family members include a spouse, children, or parents. The child must be 18 years or younger, otherwise, other rules come into effect. Sons or daughters over 18 must have a disability and be incapable of caring for themselves.
Does the Employee Need to Provide Notice of Leave?
The answer to this question is yes. Employees are required by law to give written or oral notice of FMLA leave.
If the leave is foreseeable, your employee is legally required to give at least 30 days advance notice. For example, an event that is considered foreseeable is a pre-planned surgery or pregnancy.
The employer has rights in the event that an employee fails to provide 30 days notice. Human resources can delay the provision of FMLA leave until the 30-day milestone is reached.
The rules governing unforeseeable leave are more lenient. Here, employees are required to give notice when it is practical and quickly as possible. An example of justified unforeseeable leave is a car accident or cancer diagnosis.
Can Employers Ask for Proof?
The FMLA does not require that employees provide proof of a serious medical condition. However, the law does not prohibit employers from asking for it either.
Some employers request a medical certification. This certification comes from a health care provider and certifies the authenticity of the condition.
The U.S. Department of labor has published FMLA guidelines on the medical certification process. The employer has 5 days to request a medical certification after receiving the employee’s FMLA leave notice.
Next, the employee has 15 days to respond to the employer’s request. The FMLA also permits the employer to directly contact an employee’s health care provider to discuss the certification documentation.
What Are the Employer’s Obligations Under FMLA?
For starters, the FMLA has a posting requirement. Each employer is required to display or post FMLA general notices. These notices serve as a bulletin board reminder of employee rights under FMLA.
The poster needs to be large enough to read and in clear view of all employees. The posted information must clearly explain FMLA guidelines as well.
There are no exceptions to the posting requirement, even if your company is a small startup company. In some cases, the Department of Labor may advise your company to post the notice in a language other than English.
If your company has any eligible employees, human resources are required to directly provide FMLA guidelines and other pertinent information. Usually, this information is provided in an employee handbook or with other leave and benefits documentation. Electronic provision is an acceptable way to share FMLA guidelines.
A Recap of the FMLA Guidelines
The FMLA is an important law that allows employees to care for themselves and family. With the FMLA, employees do not have to fear retribution for taking extended time off.
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