Introduction: This blog post mentions the benefits of using an HR Software (also called recordkeeping software) in maintaining compliance with FMLA, a law in United States about family and medical leaves. It is important for HR, CEO and CFO to know about FMLA law as employers in US have lost millions of dollars in FMLA violations.
The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is an act in United States that provides certain employees of an organization with up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave per year. It also requires that employers maintain the group health benefits to the employees during the leave period. FMLA is designed to help employees balance their work and family responsibilities by allowing them to take reasonable unpaid leave for certain family and medical reasons.
More information on the act can be found at Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) but broadly the act requires that covered employers must grant an eligible employee up to a total of 12 work-weeks of unpaid leave during any 12-month period for one or more of the following reasons:
- for the birth and care of the newborn child of the employee;
- for placement with the employee of a son or daughter for adoption or foster care;
- to care for an immediate family member (spouse, child, or parent) with a serious health condition;
- or to take medical leave when the employee is unable to work because of a serious health condition.
Additionally the final rule extends the coverage for eligible specified family members,
- Up to 12 weeks of leave for certain qualifying exigencies arising out of a covered military member’s active duty status, or notification of an impending call or order to active duty status, in support of a contingency operation, and
- Up to 26 weeks of leave in a single 12-month period to care for a covered service member recovering from a serious injury or illness incurred in the line of duty on active duty. Eligible employees are entitled to a combined total of up to 26 weeks of all types of FMLA leave during the single 12-month period.
The other general conditions that makes an employee eligible for FMLA are:
- Should have worked for the employer for at least 12 months, and for at least 1,250 hours over the previous 12 months
- Work at a location where at least 50 employees are employed by the employer within 75 miles
There are several requirements to be fulfilled by the employee/employer for FMLA. The biggest cause of worry for employers is that FMLA has long been a source of litigations.
Employers have lost millions of dollars in FMLA violations.
Not only does FMLA mandates employers to grant family and medical leave to eligible employees, it also prohibits an employer from firing, denying a promotion to, or demoting an employee because the employee requested or has taken family medical leave. Potential remedies include reinstatement and payment of lost wages, employment benefits, or any other loss sustained as a result of the employer’s violation of the FMLA.
While most HR professionals are aware of FMLA (because not being aware of FMLA further aggravates the case), their biggest challenge lies in deciding whether an employee is eligible for FMLA.
An employee’s eligibility can be decided only if the HR department has complete information available in its records. While FMLA asks employers to keep employee information for three years for the purpose of FMLA, various other compliance acts needs employers to keep employment related records for up to 7 years.
So, what do you do when an employee applies for leave / FMLA?
Here are some steps suggested for HR professionals to avoid the pitfalls of FMLA violation.
- Look at the reason for the leave
- If the reason is related to self or family sickness, check for employee’s FMLA eligibility
- Check his / her job history, for instance, has he / she been with the company in the past 7 years?
- Check the joining date to know the duration of work
- Check the time sheet / attendance sheet to verify whether the employee has worked for 1250 hours over the past 12 months
- Check if the employee has taken any FMLA (regular/ intermittent) leave in past 12 months
- Also check whether he / she is a key employee, 7. as there are different compliances for key employees
- If an employee is eligible for FMLA, and even if they have not applied for it, notify them in writing that they are eligible.
- When initiating a disciplinary action against an employee, review their FMLA records for any link between the reason of discipline and their FMLA leave
- In certain cases, employees may apply for leave to their managers which may have been denied leading to the same compliance issues. This is discussed in my next article on how Self Services can help in compliance
Is it easy to check an employee’s FLMA eligibility?
This would be difficult with a manual system of records or when maintaining employee data in multiple spreadsheets.
But I would say, “YES” if an electronic system of record-keeping or a or a web based HRIS (Human Resources Information System) that understands these compliance requirements is used.
Even the FLMA refers to the “use of electronic record keeping that will minimize the burden on employers”. FMLA has a complete section for employers to maintain related records (Refer “Subpart E—Record-keeping Requirements § 825.500 Record-keeping requirements”).
A HRIS / System of Records is very useful when HR needs to take compliance decisions, not only for FMLA but also for other compliance related matters.
HRIS has sections related to:
- Employment records
- Personal records
- Leaves, attendance and travel records
- Performance, training, rewards and discipline records
- Financial records of employees
- Further, it can provide consolidated information like the number of employees at a specific location.
These can help HR manager to take critical decisions quickly.
What next: HRIS can help capture necessary information needed for compliance. Please fill the form below to know more about how electronic record-keeping software works and can retrieve important employee information quickly.