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20 Years on with the Family and Medical Leave Act - How Prepared are You?

In February of 1993, the Family and Medical Leave Act  was passed with bipartisan support. (Those were the good old days, hey?) Its purpose is to ensure  that workers should be able to recover from major illnesses, help ill relatives, or care for new babies without fear of losing their jobs.  In the twenty years since its passage, the Act has helped many employees manage through difficult family circumstances without fear of losing their jobs.  It has also presented employers with the challenge of monitoring employee absences carefully to avoid the risks associated with failures to comply with the Act.

Per the Department of Labor, the key provisions of the Act are as follow:

The FMLA entitles eligible employees of covered employers to take unpaid, job-protected leave for specified family and medical reasons with continuation of group health insurance coverage under the same terms and conditions as if the employee had not taken leave. Eligible employees are entitled to:

  • Twelve workweeks of leave in a 12-month period for:
    • the birth of a child and to care for the newborn child within one year of birth;
    • the placement with the employee of a child for adoption or foster care and to care for the newly placed child within one year of placement;
    • to care for the employee's spouse, child, or parent who has a serious health condition;
    • a serious health condition that makes the employee unable to perform the essential functions of his or her job;
    • any qualifying exigency arising out of the fact that the employee's spouse, son, daughter, or parent is a covered military member on “covered active duty;” or
  • Twenty-six workweeks of leave during a single 12-month period to care for a covered servicemember with a serious injury or illness if the eligible employee is the servicemember's spouse, son, daughter, parent, or next of kin (military caregiver leave).

I recently sat down with my colleagues Toni Kellam and Todd Black, to talk about how the FMLA impacts organizations and what changes we might expect in the future in the provisions of the FMLA.  Toni is our in house expert on absence management and has worked with hundreds  of our clients to help them design appropriate absence management programs.  Todd is an expert in human resource management systems, and likewise has worked with many Kronos customers to enable their policies via workforce management technology.  I asked Toni and Todd to respond to the following questions.

  • How has the FMLA helped employees in the last 20 years?
  • How do “covered” organizations typically manage their FMLA compliance?
  • What are the penalties to organizations for not complying with the FMLA?
  • When the FMLA was originally passed 20 years ago, there were concerns that it was anti-business, that it would impose excessive financial burdens on employers.  What has actually come to pass in these 20 years?
  • Changes being proposed to expand the FMLA and other paid and unpaid leave programs at the municipal, state and federal level.  Can you comment on how employers should prepare for possible changes in the regulations governing employee leaves?

You can hear their answers in this FMLA podcast.

If you want to learn more about the FMLA, the following links are helpful:

How well does your organization perform when it comes to tracking employee absences?

Share your insights!

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