The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) allows employees of covered employers up to 12 weeks of leave during a year for their own serious health condition or to care for an immediate family member with a serious health condition. In 2008 amendments were added to protect employees affected by the needs of family members serving in the military including 12 weeks of leave in certain situations related to deployment and return and up to 26 weeks to care for an injured service member.
While employers are not required to pay employees out on leave, they are required to continue health benefits, just as they do for active employees, and return employees to their job or an equivalent position. An equivalent position is one with the same pay, benefits and terms and conditions of employment.
If you are an employer covered by the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) you are required to have an up to date poster in your workplace that describes the law and enforcement procedures. How do you know if you are covered under the FMLA? If you had at least 50 employees, or an average of 50 employees, working during the past 12 months in locations within 75 miles of a primary location, you are covered by the FMLA. Whether or not you already have the right poster up it’s time for a new one. This Friday, January 16 rule changes go into effect that are included in the new FMLA Poster. If your poster says, “WHD 1420 and Revised January 2009” in the bottom right hand corner, you have the right one up.
The list of rules and potential administrative headaches under the FMLA is almost endless. For most employers FMLA administration can be pretty straight forward and limited to easily defined extended absences for hospitalizations, new babies or the final days of an aged parent. The Department of Labor provides an overview of the FMLA, the new regulations and links to employer forms that will help in these situations. Good documentation and follow up is the core to compliance.
Posting the notice is a start for covered employers. You are also required to provide employees with an up to date company FMLA policy. This can be in a separate document or employee handbook. You are likely to need the expertise of an HR professional or attorney practicing employment law for the policy or handbook.
You will also want to turn to the HR expert or attorney when you receive trickier FMLA requests. It will be a long morning when one employee announces that they have been recently diagnosed with a chronic condition and can now only work reduced hours and another staff member asks for FMLA leave to take care of their spouse who is undergoing cosmetic surgery. I would need more details to even begin to answer these questions. What types of leave questions confuse you the most?