The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is a protective act designed to ensure employees who either have a serious medical condition or are caring for someone with a medical condition cannot be fired.
Over 20 million Americans take advantage of FMLA every year. Leave taken through this system is unpaid, but the employee will be able to return to their jobs. Furthermore, FMLA leave does not have to be taken all at once, so employees do have flexibility.
What Does The FMLA Protect?
In order for an employee to take FMLA leave, they must meet a number of eligibility requirements. These eligibility requirements detail whether an employee works for a covered employer and which scenarios would entitle an employee to take this form of unpaid leave.
There are circumstances which may fall outside the scope of these examples. In this situation, employees should speak to a professional or their employer’s HR department.
Birth Or Adoption Of A Child
Employees may take FMLA leave if they are expanding their family through birth or adoption. Both parents have the right to take FMLA leave for this reason, but leave must be taken within a year of the child being born or adopted, unless the employer agrees to intermittent leave.
FMLA leave taken for family reasons must ordinarily be taken as a continuous block of time off.
Serious Health Conditions
Anyone who has a serious medical condition or anyone who must care for a spouse, child, or parent with a serious medical condition may take FMLA leave.
To qualify for FMLA leave for medical reasons, the condition typically must be serious enough to incapacitate the individual, such as requiring an overnight hospital stay.
It also applies to chronic conditions that prevent the employee from working intermittently. This applies if medical treatment is necessary at least twice a year.
These are the conditions that apply in the majority of cases. It is best to speak to an expert about this if different circumstances apply to your specific situation.
Military Deployments Or Leave
The FMLA has a number of provisions for military families. For certain types of military deployment, FMLA leave may be taken.
A covered servicemember requiring care for injury or illness also entitles spouses and other close family members to take up to 26 weeks of FMLA leave per year to provide care.
This aspect of FMLA is complex, and an expert should be consulted if seeking FMLA leave relating to military deployments or leave.
When Am I Eligible For FMLA Leave?
FMLA leave only applies when an employee is working for a private employer with more than 50 employees within a 75-mile radius of the worksite. Private employers with fewer employees are not required to provide FMLA leave, but separate medical leave and state family laws may still offer a similar type of leave.
Employees must have worked for the employer for a minimum of 12 months. This includes seasonal work, so the 12-month period does not have to be continuous. A break in service of more than seven years will invalidate an employee’s right to FMLA leave.
How Do I Request FMLA Leave?
To take FMLA leave, a formal notice must be provided to the employer. If the employee is aware in advance of a condition or situation where FMLA leave may be required, they should provide 30 days’ notice.
In the event FMLA leave is required suddenly, such as if a spouse goes into labor, the employee must inform their employer as soon as possible.
It is not required for the employee to request FMLA leave upon the first leave request. However, employees should provide enough information to let the employer know their condition may be protected by FMLA.
If the request is approved and additional leave is required, the subsequent request must state the condition or why leave may be required. For example, an employee can simply mention that they must attend physical therapy twice per week.
Employees are not required to provide details of a diagnosis. What is required is enough information to tell the employer that an illness, injury, or request for care is protected under FMLA.
To give an example, in practice, an employee would be able to tell their employer that they have been diagnosed with an illness that requires them to follow a course of antibiotics and stay home for seven days. This would be an FMLA protected condition.
Speak With An HR Consultant About FMLA
FMLA is extremely important for employers. If leave is denied or an employee is fired despite having a condition protected by FMLA, the employee may be able to take legal action against the business.
Understanding FMLA is essential for all employers so they can adequately comply with their responsibilities. Speak to a professional HR consultant about FMLA and how to handle it in practice.
Contact HR Search & Rescue to find out more about providing an FMLA- compliant work environment.