February 10, 2021

FMLA Administration Tips for HR

You are a company’s first HR Director, hired to help a small firm build their team. A manager calls you to tell you that one of her employees, Joe, has been off for two weeks to care for her Dad. The manager forgot to tell you. 
One of the challenges of Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) recordkeeping and compliance is that when a company approaches the size where leave must be offered, HR staff may not have been trained on how to administer it.  Or HR staff who are familiar with the requirements are often busy handling recruiting, employee relations and payroll issues. HR staff may struggle to ensure that employees are notified of their rights under FMLA and provided with the appropriate documentation in the required timeframe.   It is often time-consuming to interpret the intersection of local, state, and federal leave policies combined with the internal leave policies developed prior to the organization’s offering FMLA to address extended sick leave.

But, as Mario Bordogna, Member at Clark Hill’s Pittsburgh office, stated recently, “It’s critical that managers and HR professionals take time to get in the weeds and understand the nuts and bolts involved with FMLA compliance, because they are the ones most on the front lines making decisions about coverage, assessing the validity of absences, and otherwise taking steps which are most likely to face legal scrutiny for their companies – and even, in certain circumstances, themselves individually.”

In addition to these challenges, the other issue facing the newly hired HR Director is that many managers are unfamiliar with FMLA’s intricacies and neglect to inform HR of an absence until well after the fact. A priority should be to train managers in the basics, including a strong reminder to notify HR whenever an employee is requesting time off for treatment of a serious medical condition such as a chronic illness, pregnancy, or any medical condition requiring an overnight hospital stay - or if any employee is absent for three consecutive days. Other points to cover are that employees are eligible for 12 weeks of leave, an explanation of how it is tracked, and the fact they can take time in one or more blocks or intermittently. HR has only five days to notify employees of their eligibility, rights and responsibilities, something that managers are often unaware of. Other issues to address in manager training are whether employees are able to work while on leave, what happens when their leave runs out, and what to do if they suspect fraud.

A written policy that addresses the answers to these questions and more: whether or not FMLA runs concurrently with paid time off, the company’s definition of a “year” for FMLA calculation purposes, and the details of the law should all be included in a policy that is included in the company’s employee handbook.   The policy should state clearly that employees should notify HR if they need leave. 

An informed management team can make FMLA administration easier for HR.  The partnership between HR and that team can be reinforced by training – or at the very least, distributing a list of Frequently Asked Questions or a Tip Sheet to use as a reference. 

If you would like a copy of the tip sheet and list of FAQ’s that HR/AA has prepared, please email support@hr-aa.com.

Source: SHRM, "What Managers Need to Know About the FMLA"

Upcoming Webinar on Remote Hiring:

On March 10, 2021, HR/AA’s Michele Hanson and CH attorney Brian Shekell will walk through what employers need to know about compliance issues and HR best practices with regards to remote hiring. Register here:

The views and opinions expressed in the article represent the view of the author and not necessarily the official view of Clark Hill PLC. Nothing in this article constitutes professional legal advice nor is intended to be a substitute for professional legal advice.

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