Should I Accept My Employee’s FMLA Leave Request? [Eligibility Conditions & Other Specifications]

The FMLA, or the federal Family and Medical Leave Act, was designed to allow eligible employees to take up to 12 weeks per year off work, without pay, without losing their group health benefits or their job. 

However, not everyone is under the protection of this act, so it’s important for companies to figure out which of their employees can actually benefit from its provisions.

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For instance, there is such a thing as FMLA paternity leave or FMLA caregiver leave for when an immediate family member falls ill, but the employer must check the specific conditions before they can approve the request.  

Therefore, today we will help you answer the following three important questions when discussing the FMLA: 

  1. Does the company have FMLA coverage?
  2. What are the eligibility criteria for employees who ask for FMLA leave?
  3. Does my employee’s situation fit the FMLA specifications?

By the end of this article, you should know with a certain degree of clarity if FMLA rules apply to your company and your employee(s).

#1: Does the company have FMLA coverage?

The FMLA covers any US company that has 50 or more employees active in the current or preceding year (independent contractors don’t count). These need to be full-time or part-time employees, with at least 20 weeks of work at the current job.  

In summary, you are covered if your company has employed at least 50 people during any 20 weeks of the current or the previous calendar year. 

Also, the FMLA automatically applies to local, State, and Federal employers, public agencies, and local schools.

#2: Eligibility Criteria for FMLA Leave

Once you establish the company is included under the protection of the FMLA, it’s time to see if the employee asking for leave fits the specifications.  

To be eligible, an employee must meet these three conditions: 

  • He/she must be employed by a company that is covered by the FMLA (which we already established);
  • He/she must have been employed by the company and actively working for at least 12 months (these don’t have to be consecutive). 
  • The employee must have worked at least 1,250 hours during the 12-month period preceding the start of the leave. Therefore, you need to make the calculations up to the start of the leave and not the date they submitted their request. Also, keep in mind that certain types of employees receive special treatment under the FMLA.

#3: Does my employee’s situation fit the FMLA specifications?

Moving forward, the employer has to figure out if the reason for the leave request is covered by the FMLA. 

Here is the list of qualifying conditions supported by the act:

  • To care for their own health or treat a serious illness. Keep in mind that not all health conditions are covered under the FMLA, so make sure to check it first.
  • For the birth of their child and to bond with the newborn (paternity leave)
  • To take care of the steps required in the adoption process and to bond with the new family member.
  • To care for an immediate family member (not in-laws) who suffers from a serious condition and needs help.

Keep in mind that the FMLA is a bit more generous with situations that involve a military family member in need of assistance. For instance, if the standard FMLA leave lasts up to 12 weeks, in situations that involve a military deployment, the leave can be prolonged to up to 26 weeks in a single year. 

In Summary

The main purpose of the FMLA is to offer workers the time they need to take care of their families. While this leave is not paid, it does come with a few guarantees that help employees return to work without too much effort. 

Still, it’s important that employers check the FMLA specifications thoroughly before approving a leave request. Also, they must notify their payroll provider, to make the necessary adjustments and take care of the extra paperwork.

Lastly, the FMLA allows employers to use paid vacation, sick or family leave (instead of unpaid leave) to avoid living without an income during the FMLA leave. When this happens, the leave is still FMLA-protected. 

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