What Does the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) Mean?

In case you aren’t familiar, FMLA stands for the Family and Medical Leave Act. This law was passed in 1993 to help employees balance their work life with their personal medical needs, as well as the needs of their family members.

Under this law, you are entitled to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to either take care of your own serious health condition or to help take care of a serious health condition of an immediate family member. Parental leave, as defined by the Department of Labor, is also covered by this act which covers the birth of adoption of a child and bonding time for a new foster child within one year of birth or placement.

This leave is important to both employers and employees as it protects their job while they are away. When it comes to determining what all is covered under the act, things can get a bit tricky.

Don’t get lost in the sea of legal jargon, let us help you understand how the Family and Medical Leave Act affects your business by reading the important points we outlined below.

Does My Company Have to Comply With FMLA?

photo of office interiorNot every business is required to offer its employees FMLA leave. There is a certain criteria that defines which employers need to comply under the law.

The requirements for FMLA compliance include:

  • Be a private sector employer with 50 or more employees for at least 20 weeks in the current or previous year. (This includes a joint employer or successor in interest to a covered employer.)
  • All public agencies, including local, state, or Federal government agencies, regardless of the number employees
  • All public or private elementary and secondary schools, regardless of the number of employees

Keep in mind, just because your business does not fall under one of the three criteria outlined above, does not mean there are no other unpaid leave requirements you are responsible for complying with.

For starters, several states and municipalities have created their own version of unpaid leave statutes and ordinances you must comply with. Some of these laws require companies with less than 50 employees to offer unpaid leave to certain classes of employees. Other ordinances grant more than 12 weeks of leave, as well as other benefits. It is important to always check your local requirements before making a decision.

Another exception to the criteria for employers is if the employee in question has an ADA “disability” and is taking the leave of absence as one of the ‘reasonable accommodations’ this law requires. You always want to make sure your company policies are aligned with ADA requirements and outlines to provide a suitable workplace for all your employees.

If you are uncertain whether or not your business meets the criteria for offering FMLA leave, contact our Human Resource experts. They will walk you through the requirements for your state and help ensure your company’s policies are compliant with all local and federal laws.

Family and Medical Leave Act Eligibility

photo of a mother and childTo be an eligible employee for leave under the FMLA, there are a few requirements you must meet:

  • Your employer must be covered by the act
  • You must have worked for your employer for a minimum of 12 months
  • You must have clocked a minimum of 1,250 hours or work or service within the 12 month period immediately preceding the leave

If the employee in question has had a break in service with the employer for 7 or more years, the time worked prior to the break will not count towards eligibility.

If the break is a result of work covered by the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) the employee may still be eligible for job-protected leave. The employee may also still be eligible despite the break in service if there is a written agreement between the employee and employer that outlines the employer’s intention to rehire said employee after his/her break in service,

How Much Leave Do I Have to Provide Employees?

image of calendarUnder FMLA, eligible employees are allowed to take up to 12 weeks of leave during an employer-determined 12-month period.

There are several methods employers can use in determining the 12-month time frame:

  • A 12-month calendar year
  • Any set amount of time that is 12 consecutive months
  • 12 months from the start of when an employee’s first FMLA starts
  • A rolling 12-month period that is measured backward from the date an employee uses FMLA leave

Up to 26 weeks of job-protected leave is to be awarded to employees who will be taking time off to care for an immediate family who is a member of the Armed Forces or a covered veteran undergoing medical treatment or recovering from a serious injury or illness that was incurred while on active duty.

Can You Get Paid Under the Family Medical Leave Act?

photo of piggy bankIn short, no, you are not required to pay employees while they are taking FMLA leave. This is an unpaid absence.

There are some circumstances where employees are required to use their paid time off (if the company offers) while on FMLA leave, but you are not required to offer your employees extra paid time off under this act.

Please keep in mind, employers must notify employees on the FMLA documents if you choose to use any of the employee’s accrued paid leave as part of his or her FMLA leave. Also, when employees return to work after their FMLA leave, they are entitled to be given either their original position within the company or an equivalent with the same pay, benefits, and other terms and conditions of employment. You are also required to maintain any pre-existing group health insurance for said employee during the term of his or her leave.

How Does FMLA Leave Affect Workers Compensation Leave?

photo of a calculatorHow FMLA affects your employee’s workers compensation leave is determined by whether or not you have a collective bargaining agreement provision within your coverage. If you do not have this provision in your policy, then you can count the workers’ compensation leave towards the employee’s FMLA allowance because these injuries are considered to be a serious condition under the act’s guidelines.

However, you cannot require an employee to use any of their accrued paid time off during the periods that are being covered and paid for by workers compensation.

Am I Allowed to Ask For Medical Proof Before Granting An Employee Leave Under FMLA?

medical help logoEmployers must have a medical certification form from a doctor before granting an employee leave under this act. But, there are some rules and guidelines you have to follow in doing so.

One thing to keep in mind is employees are required (when possible) to give their employers a 30-day notice if they intend to take FMLA leave. After receiving this notice, employers can choose to reject the request. In doing so, you must do so in writing within two days of receiving the request.

The Family and Medical Leave Act is a complex law that may be hard for all business owners to understand, especially if you do not personally have a legal or human resources background. This is where INVOPEO can help your company stay compliant under FMLA.