Getting Approved for Family Medical Leave (FMLA)
Before getting approved for FMLA leave, you must first understand the necessary notifications and your responsibilities.
Both the employee and the employer are required to give notifications to one another. These required notifications are listed below.
Notifications Employers Need to Provide
Employers are required to provide four different types of notifications to their employees:
- General notice, which must be clearly visible to all employees, whether on a physical bulletin board or electronically. Additionally, this notice must also be distributed to employees at the time of hire. It can either included as part of the employee handbook or distributed as a stand alone document.
- Eligibility notice, provided to employees who request FMLA leave within five business days of when a leave is requested and must indicate whether the employee is eligible for FMLA. When an employee is not eligible, the notice is required to state why the employee is not eligible (for example, the employee has less than 1,250 hours of service in the 12 months before the requested leave start date).
- Rights and responsibilities notice, to provide all the different information about FMLA leave, including whether the employer requires medical certification, fitness for duty certification, payment of healthcare premiums, using paid leave, etc.
- Designation notice, to designate time off taken as FMLA leave (or notification that time off will not be designated as FMLA leave). If the amount of leave is known, the notice must also indicate how much time will be counted against the employee's 12-week entitlement. Employees can request a written statement of how much leave has been counted against their entitlement no more often than every 30 days.
Notifications Required from Employees
The responsibilities around FMLA notifications do not just rest on employers, employees also have notifications they are required to give.
Need for leave. Employees are required to give notice of their need to take leave at least 30 days in advance of the requested leave date. Employees do not need to specifically indicate FMLA leave or to their legal right to take FMLA leave. They do however need to provide sufficient information to their employer so the employer may know that the FMLA may apply. The employer must then recognize the possibility that an employee’s leave request may be protected under FMLA and then if necessary ask for more information to determine whether the law applies.
Need for additional leave. When an employee has already taken a FMLA leave and needs to request more time off for the same reason, then the employee must specifically refer either to FMLA or to the qualifying reason for the leave. This rule distinguishes that employees who have already used FMLA should know their situation qualifies for FMLA and thus can be expected to know the rules and provide more extensive notice.
The notice period for FMLA is at least 30 days in advance if the need for FMLA if it is foreseeable (for example, a scheduled surgery). Employees who do not give the 30 days' notice must then explain why notice was not practicable, if and when the employer asks them to.
Unforeseeable need for FMLA certainly does happen. In these instances the employee must give as much notice as is feasible, which is usually deemed to be the same or next business day after the employee learns of the need for leave.
Pay. Under rthe egulations FMLA leave is unpaid. However if an employee wants to substitute paid leave available under an applicable company policy for unpaid FMLA the employee must meet all of the notice and other requirements of the company policy.
Steps to Getting Approved for FMLA
- Notify your employer when you know you need to take a leave.
- Your employer will notify you if you are eligible to take FMLA leave or not.
- Your employer will notify you of your rights and responsibilities, including the potential request for certification.
- You must provide your completed certification back to your employer within 15 calendar days.
- Your employer will notify you if your leave has been designated as FMLA within 5 business days.
- Leave is approved!
- When it is time for you to return to work, you may be required to provide a return to work clearance.
- Your employer must return you to your same or nearly identical job (including pay, location, hours, etc).
It is imperative that you do your due diligence (the best you can) to meet all of your requirements to get approved for your FMLA. This includes following up with your doctor to get required documentation (certification, return to work clearance), remember that it's not the doctor's job you are protecting it's yours! Don't rely on the doctor or their office staff to be responsible for your requirements.
Communication between you and your employer is imperative and will make the FMLA process run much more smoothly. If your employer asks that you check in with them regarding your leave status, make sure you do so! If your employer requires a return to work clearance prior to returning to work, be sure you get that to your employer!
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