As a Northwest temporary staffing agency, we know that when it comes to the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), the language can be pretty vague – making the legislation ripe for abuse. For instance, an employee is eligible for FMLA leave to care for themselves or an immediate family member with “a serious health condition.”
But what constitutes a serious health condition?
The actual definition issued by the Department of Labor is confusing and ambiguous at best.
And unfortunately, since some employees believe they are entitled to FMLA leave for any illness or, even worse, as a safety net in case their vacation request is denied, it’s important for every employer in the Northwest and throughout the U.S. to clearly define eligibility requirements and rules regarding leave.
To help you fight FMLA abuse, here are 4 tips:
1. Create and post a written policy.
Have a written FMLA policy that explains employees’ rights and is published in your company handbook or posted somewhere within your offices.
One important detail to make clear is the fact that FMLA allows employers to require that the employee exhaust their paid vacation and sick days before taking any FMLA leave. Since employees typically don’t want to use up vacation time, this kind of language will help reduce abuse.
2. Ensure an employee is eligible for FMLA leave.
Employees are eligible for FMLA if they have been employed at the company for at least 12 months, have worked at least 1,250 hours, and if your company employs at least 50 people within 75 miles.
3. Develop a tracking system to monitor employees on FMLA leave.
Tracking leave can get complicated since employees are allowed to take intermittent time off or to reduce their work schedule. That means the leave might only be for a few days a week, or even just a few hours a day.
But in order to avoid any abuse, it’s important to be diligent about closely tracking and monitoring employees on FMLA leave. One way to do that is by creating a computer spreadsheet that easily allows you to calculate any intermittent leave or a reduced schedule.
4. Require certifications and re-certifications.
To qualify for leave, an employee can be required to submit a medical certification from their or their immediate family member’s healthcare provider to ensure the validity of the illness. The certification will give you important information about why the employee will be absent, when, and for how long.
If you doubt a certification’s validity, you can request a second opinion, although you, as the employer, will have to pay for it.
In addition, you can request a re-certification every 30 days, or in less than 30 days, if:
- You receive information that puts in doubt the employee’s stated reason for the leave.
- Circumstances described in the certification have changed dramatically.
- The employee requests an extension of their leave.
You can also require the employee to report on their status periodically and intent to return to work.
If you do have an employee who is taking FMLA leave, and you need temporary help to cover their position, Provisional can help. As one of the leading temporary staffing agencies in the Northwest, we can give you fast access to the skilled and dependable people you need, whether it’s for one day or one month.