There’s never a good time to get sick, or for a family member to get sick, but when it happens, legislation exists that grants employees certain rights to unpaid leave in order to deal with illness along with a variety of other personal situations.
The Family and Medical Leave Act is designed to make sure employees can take the time off they need without negative repercussions from their employer.
If an employee comes to you with an FMLA leave request, it’s essential to understand what you’re dealing with and how to handle it.
What Is the FMLA?
The Family and Medical Leave Act was introduced under Bill Clinton’s presidency in 1993 after years of pressure from groups representing women’s rights in the U.S.
The purpose of the act was to allow men and women to balance work and family matters without fear of negative repercussions on their job status or career. It provides employees with the right to take 12 weeks unpaid leave each year—under certain criteria—in order to deal with family matters such as illness.
During FMLA-based leave, employers must continue to provide group health coverage but are not required to pay employees. However, they can enforce incorporating other types of paid leave—such as vacation days—into the leave period.
Criteria to Meet for Leave
Both the employee and the employer must meet certain criteria in order to be eligible for leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act. Employers mandated to provide for this type of leave are:
- Any local or federal public agency
- Any public or private elementary or secondary school
- Private enterprises with 50 or more employees
If you are required to provide this type of leave, you must provide it in the following circumstances:
- Within one year of the birth of a newborn child so the child may be cared for by the employee
- Within one year of a new adoptive or foster child being placed in the care of the employee
- When an employee’s spouse, parent, or child has a serious health condition that requires care
- When employees themselves suffer from serious health conditions that impede their abilities to fulfill their roles
- When the employee’s parent, spouse, or child is on active duty for the military or has been called to active duty and a “qualifying exigency” arises
What Makes an Employee Eligible?
Even if one of these scenarios comes to pass, there are other conditions that the employee must meet. An employee must have:
- Worked for the employer for at least 12 months
- Completed at least 1,250 hours of work within the last 12 months for the employer
- Worked at a location in which the organization employs over 50 employees within a 75-mile radius
Once an employee meets these criteria, you are obliged to provide unpaid leave to them—under qualifying circumstances—according to the Family and Medical Leave Act.
Info an Employer Is Required to Give
The regulations for the Family and Medical Leave Act extend beyond your obligations to provide unpaid leave. An employer is also required to provide information advising employees of their right to this type of leave.
All employers covered by FMLA must display a poster outlining the employees’ rights to this type of leave. It must also detail how an employee may file a complaint to the U.S. Department of Labor if needed. It must be placed in a conspicuous area at all locations of business, even locations where FMLA may not apply to employees working there.
It’s important that you understand the provisions you must make for leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act. That way, you’ll know exactly how to handle these types of requests when they come up and the type of information to provide for your employees so that everyone is clear.