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The FMLA – or Family and Medical Leave Act – has far-reaching scope and implications. Some businesses will be impacted by its latest changes; others will not, therefore remaining a perennial concern among employers.

The FMLA provides up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave a year for eligible employees, with their health benefits protected and jobs secured upon return from their leave. Public agencies and schools must provide FMLA coverage. Private business must only provide FMLA coverage if they employ 50 or more employees for at least 20 work weeks in the current or preceding calendar year.

Ask yourself:

  • Are your employees eligible for FMLA coverage?
  • Are they in a state where the DOMA ruling increases their FMLA rights?

Many small businesses don’t think they are required to provide coverage, especially if they don’t have 50 full-time employees, but some of these businesses hire temporary or seasonal workers. If those employees work 20 work weeks in a calendar year and their addition brings a company’s total to 50 or more employees, that business must comply with the FMLA.

This is also true for other small businesses that have cut their staffs to fewer than 50 employees because of the Affordable Care Act for example. If these businesses employed at least 50 employees for 20 work weeks in the previous calendar year, they also must comply with the FMLA and provide coverage in the current year.


The FMLA continues to challenge employers. Each FMLA request requires a case-by-case analysis which is what makes the FMLA difficult to apply. Additionally, intermittent leave and controlling employee leave abuse were identified as the top 2 leave-related challenges for employers by nearly 70% of employers surveyed in a 2013 poll sponsored by the Disability Management Employer Coalition and Spring Consulting Group. These employers stated that they were concerned with employees abusing the FMLA and similar laws.

To make matters worse, the FMLA overlaps with many other laws and policies, such as collective bargaining agreements, short- and long term disability policies, workers’ compensation, absenteeism policies, and paid time off. Employers must remember and consider all of them every time a leave question arises.

Here are some best-practices:

  • Make sure you establish and communicate clear policies about what can be covered by the FMLA and the type of employee notice required
  • Provide notice of eligibility and rights and responsibilities within 5 business days of first learning about the need for FMLA leave
  • Provide designation notice once a decision has been reached about the request within 5 business days of receipt of medical certification
  • Establish and communicate parameters such as clear call-in rules to report leave and disciplinary action when these rules are not followed
  • Keep individual’s performance separate from that person’s use of FMLA. This can be achieved by handling performance issues at one level (supervisor) and FMLA with HR for example

It’s important to remember that when it comes to the FMLA, or any other regulation for that matter, it’s not one size fits all. Each new regulation affects individual businesses uniquely. No blanket compliance strategy covers every company.

The best way to ensure your business is in the clear is to partner with a workforce management expert to create specialized strategies for meeting and maintaining compliance. Experts like Paypro are navigating the difficult legal landscape every single day, and can provide trusted guidance and insights that keep clients compliant and focused on what they do best.