What is the Family Leave Act? - Abel HR

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What is the Family Leave Act?

The Family Leave Act, also known as the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), entitles eligible employees to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave per year. During this time, their health benefits will continue. 

The Family Leave Act was established to help employees balance their profession and responsibilities to their families. The leave will be approved if the reasons are proven to be valid. And the privilege can be enjoyed by both men and women.  

The FMLA can be applied to all public agencies. This includes local, state, or Federal government agencies. Likewise, public and private elementary and secondary schools are covered. However, companies should be employing 50 or more people. Some of the reasons that an employer could grant a 12-week leave are as follows. IF:

  • An employee gave birth and will have to take care of the newborn 
  • The person is required for placement for adoption of a child due to counseling sessions, court appearance, etc
  • They need to take care of a seriously ill immediate family member, including parent, spouse, or child
  • The employee is suffering from a severe health condition  

Who is Eligible for the Family and Medical Leave Act?

Not all employees could enjoy the Family Leave Act. Only those who have already worked at least 12 months, or approximately 1,250 hours in the past year, are allowed to request FMLA leave. Plus, one needs to work in a location wherein a company has around 50 employees within 75 miles. Take note though that the time off or leave due to complications in pregnancy are counted against the 12 weeks of the FMLA.  

The 12-month requirement of being employed doesn’t mean that you need to be working for a company for 12 consecutive months. For seasonal workers, the leave can also be approved, provided that all requirements are satisfied. 

If the break from work lasted at least seven years, the service rendered before will not be counted unless covered by the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act. Aside from that, there must be a written agreement specifying that the employer has the intention to rehire the person after the break.

Airline Flight Crew Employees under the Family Leave Act

An airline employee will meet the required number of hours if, within 12 months, they have worked or were paid for not less than 60% of the employee’s monthly guarantee. Or if they have worked and were paid for not less than 504 hours. 

They are entitled to 72 days of FMLA leave during a 12-month period under the same standards provided above. 

Can You Take FMLA Leave on an Intermittent Basis? 

Yes, this is possible. One could request to take leave in a non-consistent manner or separate blocks. However, for planned medical treatment or sessions, the employee should make an effort to have the treatment scheduled. This is to ensure that the company can continue its operations without significant disruption. If the FMLA leave is due to birth or adoption, one should need the employer’s approval to request intermittent or reduced leave. 

There are also special conditions where an employer can require to substitute other leaves (sick and vacation leaves) to cover some, or all the FMLA leave period. 

When to Give Notice to the Employers     

An employee should comply with the employer’s requirements when requesting leave. As a rule of thumb, one must provide pertinent details and information to prove that the reason is valid to take the Family Leave Act. 

Generally, most companies would mandate their employees to provide a 30-day notice. But there are unforeseeable circumstances that the leave should be applied immediately. In such cases, an employee must provide notice as soon as possible.

What Should Employers Do?

As an employer, they have the responsibility to inform their employees about the Family Leave Act. They must do the following: 

  • Post a notice covering all the rights and responsibilities under the Family and Medical Leave Act. If the employer did not post such, there is a corresponding penalty 
  • They should include the Family and Medical Leave Act in the employee handbook or provide the necessary details to the newly hired 
  • When an employee provides an FMLA-qualified reason, the employer must provide their eligibility, including their rights and responsibilities under the act
  • The employer should also inform the employees if the leave is designated as FMLA. In addition, they must provide the number of leaves that will be taken off from their entitlement

What are the Certifications Needed by the Employer?   

In case an employee requests FMLA leave because of a serious health condition, whether for themselves or an immediate family member, the employer may request certification from a health care provider. Likewise, periodic recertification might be asked as well. 

Also, the employer may request the employee to seek second and third medical opinions. However, the cost would be shouldered by the company. 

Restoring Jobs After the FMLA Leave

When the FMLA leave is over, the employee must be returned to their job role with the same benefits and following all the terms under their employment contract. The group health benefits should still be the same as well. 

Get Help, Understand the Family and Medical Leave Act 

There are FMLA advisors that could help you further understand what the act is all about. You can seek their assistance if there are specific issues concerning the Family Leave Act. Both employers and employees could reach out to them. 

Benefits of the Family Leave Act 

In a nutshell, the Family Leave Act’s core benefit is that the employee can attend to their personal needs and still be able to get the same health benefits as provided by the employer. 
According to studies, the US is one of the most overworked nations in the world. Having said that, many Americans have less time for their families and personal needs. But with the Family Leave Act, the intent was to create a work-life balance. Since its enactment in 1993, employees hope that they shouldn’t have to choose between their work and family. This, in turn, promotes healthy babies, healthy relationships, and a healthy working environment.

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