Your Quick Guide to FMLA

Your Quick Guide to FMLA

What Employers Need to Know

Employers frequently have questions about the Family and Medical Leave Act, including which employees are eligible? What events qualify under the act? How long can the employee take leave for? How do you handle FMLA requests?

This quick guide will help you navigate the confusing rules and guidelines laid out in FMLA to make sure you’re in compliance with the law.


FMLA, enacted by Congress in 1993, aims to provide job security to employees experiencing a medical or family emergency. The act requires organizations that employ 50 or more people, within 75 miles of their location, to offer up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to employees who worked 1,250 or more hours the previous year.

Qualifying Events

The following events allow employees to qualify for leave under FMLA:

  • Birth of a child
  • Adoption of a child
  • A spouse or immediate family member being called to active duty either while enlisted or as part of the National Guard, Reserves or Armed Forces
  • Serious health conditions of employees rendering them incapable of performing job roles and responsibilities and determined by a medical professional
  • Providing care for a family member (spouse, child, parent, other immediate family) in the event of a serious health condition

Job Security

While taking FMLA leave, employee jobs are protected from termination. Additionally, employees keep the same benefits they had at the time they requested leave.

Handling Requests

Ideally, an employee would submit an FMLA request 30 days prior to their leave start. This would allow employers to acknowledge and approve or deny their request. However, emergency situations can make that impossible. In these scenarios, it becomes your responsibility to acknowledge or deny their request within five calendar days.

An employer may ask questions related to an employee’s request and require follow-up documentation from their doctor. Certification from a doctor should be requested when an employee files for leave under the act.

Returning to Work

Employees share responsibility with their employer to communicate during their FMLA leave. Status of the leave, along with updates on their intent to return to work, should be provided regularly. Additionally, any employee who extends their absence beyond the initial requested time must file a form for an extension with their employer. Failure to do so leaves them accountable under the company’s standard unexcused absence policy.

Compliance with FMLA requires consistent record-keeping and open communication from the employer and employee. Keeping in touch and aware of what’s going on during the employee’s leave will help you better prepare to cover their work and plan for their return.

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