In April 2016, the U.S. Department of Labor (or DOL) finally put out an FMLA guide dedicated to employers. It was designed to be a companion guide to the 2012 issue that helped employees understand the Family & Medical Leave Act and their rights under it. According to the DOL, this guide is designed to give you essential information about the FMLA, along with your obligations and options for providing leave within the laws. This guide does a few things really well, and a few things not so well. So let’s take a look at the changes and clarifications they’ve issued this year.
Understanding the FMLA
The Family and Medical Leave Act, or FMLA, is a federal law that gives eligible employees with up to 12 workweeks of unpaid leave in a 12-month time frame in specific situations. What this means for you is that, in certain situations, you are legally obligated to hold a job for an employee, or provide them with an equal job when they return from their leave.
Covered situations include:
- The birth, adoption, or foster placement of a child. This allows time for them to bond with a newborn, or newly placed child.
- To care for a spouse, child, or parent, that has a serious health condition. This includes when they are incapacitated due to pregnancy.
- If they are suffering from a serious medical condition that renders them unable to complete their regular job duties. This also can be due to pregnancy.
- In certain situations when a spouse, child, or parent is in the military and is on covered active duty or is called to covered active duty status.
In addition, the length of covered leave is extended to up to 26 workweeks during 12 months if a military spouse, child, parent, or next of kin is seriously injured or ill to allow them time to care for their relative.
They are also limited to no more than 26 work weeks due to any combination of these reasons. So for example, if they have a child and take leave, and then have a medical condition that impairs their ability to work within the same 12 month period, they are only eligible to take up to 26 weeks combined.
Which Employers are Required to Comply with FMLA
The DOL outlines what types of companies or organizations are required to comply with FMLA. This can include private-sector employers, public agencies, or schools. If you fall under the requirements as a covered employer, then you are legally obligated to provide FMLA.
You should always consult with a professional (like us!) to determine if you are required to follow FMLA obligations or not, but we can give you some general guidelines.
- Private-sector employers that had 50 or more full-time-equivalent (FTE) employees in 20 or more workweeks in the current or previous calendar year. The workweeks do not have to be consecutive.
- Public agencies (like federal or state gov’t agencies) are required to follow FMLA no matter how many employees they have.
- Local school agencies are also required to follow FMLA regardless of the number of employees they have. This includes local school boards, as well as public or private schools.
- Corporations are considered a single employer under FMLA instead of counting separate establishments or divisions as individual entities.
- Separate businesses may be considered a single employer if they are considered to be integrated businesses. For example, if they share common management, interrelation in their operations, centralized HR centers, or a degree of common ownership/financial control.
What you are required to do under the law
Under the law, you have certain obligations that you are legally required to meet. These include:
- Maintaining their health benefits during their leave
- Restoring them to their same, or equivalent, job when they return
- Meeting the recordkeeping requirements under the law
- Posting notices informing employees of their rights under FMLA
- You also have the right to require certification of the need for FMLA leave from your employees before granting it
About the New Guide Released by the DOL
First, here’s the link to the new guide that the DOL released for employers: http://ebs-consulting.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/FMLA-Guide-for-Employers.pdf
This guide is designed to focus on giving employers an overview of the typical leave situations they will encounter. It explains what your obligations under the law are. This makes it a great resource for anyone that manages employees and may not necessarily be part of the normal human resources team.
Because of the general nature of the guide, it’s not an ideal resource for human resource professionals that typically want to see how to handle atypical situations. It can, however, help you figure out how to explain certain aspects of the laws to the non-hr pros that you work with, so it’s still a good read.
Get Help Figuring it Out!
Anytime you are dealing with legal issues that can impact your team, it’s important to consult with a professional and make sure you are up-to-speed on what your obligations are. Failing to do so can result in hefty fines and tons of headaches. So contact our professionals to see how we can help: http://ebs-consulting.com/contact-us
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