When employees need to attend to their (or their family’s) medical needs, they may need to take time off from work. There are specific steps they and their employer need to follow to determine whether they will receive compensation when they aren’t working.
The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA) provides unpaid, job-protected leave to eligible employees. The FMLA is a federal law that requires employers to provide up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave per year for particular family and medical reasons.
Although the details may seem complicated, the process is fairly straightforward when both employer and employee adhere to the following steps.
Determine Employer Obligation and Employee Eligibility
An employer has certain obligations towards their employees. They need to provide a safe and healthy work environment, pay them a wage that is at least equal to the minimum wage, provide them with meal breaks and rest periods, provide them with leave entitlements and notify them of changes to their employment terms.
Under the terms of FMLA, if they employ 50 or more employees who work within a 75-mile radius of the worksite, they are also required to offer paid leave.
With a qualifying reason, employees are eligible for these entitlements if they are employed on a full or part-time basis and have worked for the employer for at least 12 months.
Determine Whether there Is a Qualifying Reason
The next step is to determine whether the employee has a qualifying reason for requesting leave. A qualifying reason for FMLA includes when the employee is unable to work because of any of the following reasons:
- Serious health condition
- Employees must care for a family member with a significant health condition.
- Qualifying exigency arising out of the military service of the employee or family member
- Qualifying exigency arising from an employee’s spouse, child, or parent is on covered active duty (or has been notified of an impending call or order to covered active duty) in the Armed Forces.
If an employer denies FMLA benefits to an eligible employee, they must provide written notice. It must include the name and address of each person or organization denying leave and the specific reasons why the leave was denied.
Notify the Employee of Eligibility for FMLA
The Family and Medical Leave Act requires employers to notify employees of their eligibility for FMLA. Employers must let employees know if they are eligible to take leave under the FMLA within five business days of receiving a request for leave, or an employee’s first day of work, whichever is later.
Employees must also be notified if they are not eligible for FMLA within five business days of the employer’s determination.
Request Medical Certification for Paid Leave
As per the company’s policy, employees must provide a medical certification for any paid leave. The company will not process any requests for paid leave without a valid medical certificate.
When possible, medical certifications should be submitted to the HR department at least ten days before the date of leave.
Notify the Employee of FMLA Approval or Rejection
If the medical certificate is complete, they will approve or reject the request based on the provided facts. If it is incomplete or unclear, additional information may be required before they make a determination. The employee should have at least seven days to submit the requested information.
The employee will be notified of the status within five business days of submitting a completed medical certificate. If the request is approved, they will be able to take a paid leave of absence, which will be counted against the FMLA benefits to which they are entitled.
Responsible Employee Leave Procedures
Implementing and adhering to Responsible Employee Leave Procedures is a way to ensure that the company is not negatively affected by an employee’s absence. Responsible leave procedures might include giving the employee information on what they need to do before they leave, including who needs to know about their leave, where to find important documents and how best to communicate with people while they’re on leave.
They may also be required to periodically call in to provide updates on their status so the company can continue to plan for their absence without additional strain to the business or other employees.
Employee Reinstatement After FMLA Leave
Since the employee should have been periodically calling in to report their status, the company should be prepared for their imminent return. Plus, the employee on leave may have been kept up-to-date on any changes made to their job while they were gone.
If the employee requested leave for their own medical condition, they would have submitted a medical certificate. In this case, before the employee is allowed to return to work, a medical release from the doctor may be required.
In some circumstances, there may be mitigating circumstances that require additional documentation. Generally, by following these steps, an employee will be able handle their or their family’s medical issue without running the risk of further financial hardship or losing their job.