How to Qualify, Request and Manage FMLA: Guide For Employees and Employers

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What is FMLA?

The Family Medical and Leave Act (FMLA) is a federal law that ensures that an employee’s job and health insurance coverage are protected while he or she takes time off from work for qualifying medical and family reasons. An employee who qualifies for FMLA leave is given up to 12 weeks of unpaid time off to deal with situations that include the birth or adoption of a child. FMLA has a number of qualifications for those who would like to take advantage of it, and it can be a potentially confusing law. In this article, we’ll discuss how to qualify for FMLA leave, who qualifies for FMLA leave, and other FMLA qualifications.

How to Qualify for FMLA leave

First, FMLA qualifications must apply to your employer. Employers required to comply with FMLA include all public agencies and private companies who employed more than 50 individuals for at least 20 workweeks during either the present or the previous year.

Second, you, as an employee of the covered company, must meet certain FMLA qualifications to apply for leave. You must have been employed for at least 12 months at the same company on the date the leave will begin, and you must have performed 1,250 hours of work in the past 12 months. The hours do not need to be consecutive, but it must be stressed that they are work hours; therefore, time taken off for administrative purposes, vacations, sick leave, for personal reasons, or for other reasons of a similar nature will not be counted towards those 1,250 hours. If you are not employed by a workplace that has at least 50 other employees, you must work within 75 miles of such a workplace.

Third, you must have an eligible reason to qualify for the leave. We’ll discuss those reasons in the next section.

How to Qualify for FMLA: Who Qualifies for FMLA Leave?

FMLA has specific requirements to determine who qualifies for FMLA leave. The following are situations in which a covered employer must grant FMLA leave:

• The employee has developed a serious medical condition and requires some time off to convalesce;

• A family member of the employee has developed a serious health condition and requires that the employee act as their caretaker;

• The employee has recently had a child, adopted a child, or placed their child in foster care; or

• An employee’s spouse, child, or parent has been called to active duty or is on active duty in the National Guard or Reserve supporting a contingency operation.

These situations have several other qualifying factors: first, the family member for whom an employee is taking leave must be their direct family member. So, an employee who needs time off to care for a seriously ill in-law is not covered by FMLA. And, if the family member is a child, FMLA mostly applies only to children under 18. An employee will only be eligible to take time off to care for a child over 18 under FMLA qualifications if that person can be proven to have a disability that renders them “incapable of self care” in “one of the major life areas.”

For Employees: How to Qualify for FMLA and Request Leave?

While there is no official paperwork for an employee to fill out to request FMLA leave, there are certain best practices that should be followed to avoid confusion or suspicion of leave abuse. The U.S. Department of Labor recommends that ideally, you should notify your employer of your intention to use FMLA leave at least 30 days in advance. Of course, certain situations may arise in which such advance notice is not possible; in those cases, the Department of Labor simply suggests that you notify your employer as soon as you are able. Be aware that in order to be covered under FMLA, you’ll need to provide enough information that allows your employer to ascertain that your situation is legitimate and that FMLA applies to your case. Providing your medical records will not be necessary, but it’s likely you’ll need to fill out paperwork detailing your health condition and have it certified by your doctor in order to qualify for FMLA leave. And, if your situation changes while you’re out, you’ll need to notify your employer (this is the case both if it becomes apparent that you’ll need more time than you originally anticipated or if you can return to work sooner than you thought).

For employers and HR representatives: Managing FMLA Leave

Clearly, it is important that you and your employee maintain communication while they are taking FMLA leave. That way, not only will you be able to keep the workplace running smoothly by staying informed about how a person is doing or when they will be able to return to work, but you’ll more easily avoid even the suspicion of FMLA leave abuse. And it’s likely that at some point, you and your HR department will need to provide FMLA leave: according to a 2013 study by the U.S. Department of Labor, 13% of US employees needed to take FMLA leave last year. As an employer or an HR representative, you can be an invaluable resource in the life of an employee going through a difficult time by providing them with FMLA leave. So, how can you practice effective FMLA management?

This is where LeaveSource by Qcera, a tool specifically designed to aid HR representatives in managing absences and FMLA leave, comes in. Qcera provides services that increase efficiency, such as LeaveSource Enterprise, which gathers FMLA administration and employer leave policies in one place and has been proven to result in a 65% decrease in your administration time. There’s also LeaveSource Entrust, a service that takes the administration of employee leave off the hands of overburdened HR representatives and performs FMLA management for the company. As of last year, the Department of Labor showed that nearly 35% of businesses still use an HR staff member to track and monitor FMLA leave: with Qcera’s simple and cost-effective solutions, you and your company can join the many businesses that are lightening their HR departments’ workloads and protecting their companies and employees by using proper software tools.