Human Resource 101: Understanding FMLA Leave

Feb 25, 2013 by

As a human resources specialist, you shoulder a number of responsibilities, and are responsible for certain aspects of your employees’ wellbeing. This presents you will a special set of circumstances and considerations, as there is no denying that employees make the backbone of any successful business. In your position, it is important that you understand the Family and Medical Leave Act through and through, as a misunderstanding and incorrect action on your part could equate to legal issues and lost money down the line. Here is a guide to understanding FLMA leave:

What is the FMLA? This is an act, instated by the United States Department of Labor’s Wages and Hours division, that protects employees’ rights in regards to taking time off work. The FMLA sets specific guidelines for what types of absences are covered under the act, as well as what employer responsibilities are when employees exercise these rights.

Entitlements. Employees are entitled to 12 weeks leave, within a twelve month period, for the following circumstances: childbirth and subsequent care for the newborn child (under twelve months of age), the adoption or foster care of a child, caring for a member of the immediate family who has a serious health condition, having a serious health condition that prevents the employee from performing on the job, or certain conditions related to service in the military. Additionally, employees who need to care for immediate family members recovering from an illness or injury related to service in the military may take up to 26 weeks (within a twelve month time frame) of military caregiver leave.

Insurance, wages, and other provisions. Employees taking advantage of FMLA leave are not entitled to their wages during the leave time, unless they make arrangements with the employer to use any paid leave they have accrued over the course of their employment. Employees should give employers 30 days advance written notice of intent to go on FMLA leave; if the event is not foreseeable, then exceptions may apply. During FMLA leave, group health insurance coverage through the employer is to remain intact, in effect, and unchanged in regards to terms and conditions for the entirety of the leave (and when the employee returns from leave). Employees have the right to file a formal complaint with the Department of Labor if an employer violates any of the provisions of the FMLA.

As a human resources manager, it is extremely important that you have a thorough understanding of the FMLA. Keep all of these points in mind when determining what your best course of action is when an employee requests leave from work under the FMLA.

About the Author: Tasia Galimi is a HR manager in charge of recruiting tools, hiring, and monitoring employee leave. She has used the FMLA protocol several times and understands it well.