A Guide to FMLA Leave Requirements for Employees
Internal FMLA leave requirements may vary from employer to employer, as long as they lie within the FMLA requirements as outlined by the Act itself. Often, employers will request that FMLA requests be made within a certain period, usually 30 days before the leave itself. This is to ensure that the following requirements for FMLA compliance can be carried out.
Once the employer has received the leave request, it is one of the requirements for FMLA compliance to respond to the employee request within five days with a determination of their eligibility. After that notice of eligibility has occurred, the employee has fifteen days to submit a medical certification that their leave is of a qualifying nature. If their certification form is incomplete or another way deficient, the employer must give the employee at least seven days to correct any deficiency. After this, a final leave approval or denial must be made.
That’s the general process. But what are the FMLA leave requirements?
FMLA Leave Requirements for Employees. Employees requesting leave must be eligible. That’s the first requirement for FMLA leave approval. Eligible employees work for what are known as covered employers. Covered employers can be public or private organizations/individuals. Further, covered employers include all public and many private employees. Private employers must have worked had at least 50 employees on payroll for just under 40% of the preceding calendar year (20 weeks).
Eligible employees have also worked with their (covered) employer for 12 months; have worked at least 1,250 hours for the employer within the last year of employment for their current employer; and work in a location in which the employee has 50 or more employees working within 75 miles of said location.
Employees requesting FMLA leave are required to submit a written request to their employer. They may be required to certify the reason for the leave with their healthcare provider. This is to ensure that the leave request can be considered “qualifying” (and therefore covered) under the Act. Qualifying leave includes coverage for can be for a variety of reasons, but most commonly include leave for their own medical conditions, caregiving for a family member or care of a military service member or veteran.
More information on types of qualifying leave and the certification process can easily be found on the Wage and Hour Division (WHD) portion of the Department of Labor’s website. WHD is the Division of the Department of Labor responsible for administering and enforcing the Act. To assist the public, they have created a number of fact sheets and other resources to help you better understand the Act and the process. And often, if you have an idea that you may need leave, it’s a good idea to consult with your Human Resources department to understand the not just the Act, but also your company specific requirements for FMLA beforehand.
“When my wife was considering leave to spend time post-pregnancy with our newborn son, she made sure to consult with her human resources department and shop steward first to know the requirements for FMLA,” says Christopher Hundley, a writer in York, Pennsylvania. “It really helped to know about the process, the documentation, and other FMLA leave requirements to make the process smooth and uncomplicated. It also gave her an understanding of how her leave needed to be structured to maximize her time with our son.”
To provide you more insight, it may be important for you to understand the FMLA requirements for employers. (You may even find that what your employer is referring to as FMLA requirements aren’t FMLA requirements at all!)
Employer Requirements for FMLA Compliance
To be in compliance with FMLA requirements, employers are required to adhere to the deadlines for FMLA leave requests as described above. They are also required to post notice of employee rights and responsibilities under FMLA (otherwise they may be subject to a $110 fine) in employee handbooks, and in a public area. They must notify employees requesting FMLA leave, about the FMLA leave requirements, about their eligibility, and how much leave will be deducted from their 12-week allotment if their leave request is approved. They are further required to restore employees to their previous job and restore their health benefits once the employees have returned from leave. Violations of any of these requirements can be grounds for fines issued by the Department of Labor, and/or civil suits by the aggrieved employees.
It’s also worth noting that employees are eligible for up to 26 weeks of unpaid leave during a single 12-month period if the leave request is to take care of a relative injured as a result of his enlistment/commission in the U.S. Armed Forces. Employers are also required to inform employees of this provision of the Act.
Likewise, many employers do allow employees to substitute some paid leave for unpaid leave during the FMLA leave period, in accordance with their own internal leave policies. This is not one of the FMLA requirements, however. Employers should carefully scrutinize the Act, recent amendments, and relevant caseload to ensure they meet the requirements for FMLA compliance.
Completing the FMLA Leave Request Process
If the process was disorganized, paper-based, or otherwise ineffective, it may be that your organization needs a Human Resources solution for leave management. Once you’ve completed the process, your Human Resources department may issue a short survey to assess their effectiveness, or offer you other aspects for feedback.
It may be worth noting to your Human Resources representative that vendors like Qcera offer products that automate and digitize leave management, obviating the need for unwieldy processes and paper-based procedures. Ask them to consider using a service like that offered by Qcera. It is a comprehensive, modular and affordable leave management solution that can increase their efficiency without breaking their budget. Qcera's expertise – drawn from covering over a million employees with our absence management software, can help your organization ensure a quick and painless process the next time you submit an FMLA leave process.