FMLA: Are You Eligible?

It's been 20 years since the federal Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) was signed by President Clinton and since then many changes have been implemented, creating headaches and frustration for both employers and employees.

Some have even been forced to choose between their family and their jobs because they were not aware of new regulations or did not read the “fine print.”

FMLA is supposed to give a full-time employee a sense of job security when they need to take an extended leave of absence. Their leave can be due to a birth or adoption of a child, personal or family medical emergencies, or a health condition. Leave can be up to 12 weeks during a 12-month period and is generally unpaid.

However, the confusing part is knowing whether or not you are eligible. New regulations are constantly being added to FMLA and are causing many headaches for those trying to qualify. Just a few months ago, new regulations went into effect for military leave and flight crew eligibility.

FMLA is not just a hassle for employees but for the employer as well. Businesses who employ less than 50 people do not qualify for FMLA.

For employees, they must meet a few requirements such as working for their covered employer for at least one year and have worked at least 1,250 hours before their leave. When applying for a job, you must be aware of how many employees there are because, again, if there are less than 50 your employer is not qualified for FMLA and neither are you.

If you and your employer qualify for FMLA, then you will continue to receive any benefits — such as health insurance coverage — while on leave. Upon returning to work, you will retain the same rate of pay before you took leave as well as your same position. Note that you must be a full-time employee to qualify.

Aside from all the headaches, FMLA is the most widely used leave program. Human resource professionals need to stay on top of these changes to best serve their employees. Every year, the Indiana Chamber of Commerce partners with Ogletree Deakins to provide HR professionals and small business owners with information on the FMLA, including seminars and publications. In fact, our upcoming Employee Benefits seminar in September will educate you about new changes and allow you to ask important questions.