The Impact of FMLA (Family and Medical Leave Act) on Human Resources Ehren Hayes Final Research Project GB520 – 06 Dr. Pellettiere Introduction According to the United States Department of Labor (DOL), The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) of 1993 mandates that employers who have 50 or more employees living within 75 miles of the worksite, must provide a minimum of 12 weeks of unpaid job protected leave. The employee must have worked for the organization for a minimum of 12 months and must have clocked a minimum of 1,250 working hours within that 12-month period.
Congress passed this law in 1993 under President Bill Clinton, and it “is designed to help employees balance their work and family responsibilities by allowing them to take reasonable unpaid leave for certain family and medical reasons. It also seeks to accommodate the legitimate interests of employers and promote equal employment opportunity for men and women”. (U. S. Department of, 2009) Prior to the Family and Medical Leave Act, it was up to the discretion of each individual employer to determine if they would allow for an employee to be granted time off to deal with family and/or health related issues.
Employees’ requests could be denied for any reason and they could also be fired. There was no consistency across the board in regards to these matters. After the law was passed in 1993, employees are now able to take time off for reasons including, but not limited to caring for a newborn or newly adopted child, caring for seriously ill immediate family members, and recovering from their own serious illness.
If an employee has to take time off for any reason that legally falls under the realm of FMLA, employers are required to retain the employee’s position or restore the employee to a substantially equal position in pay, benefits, and responsibility. Controversy As with most political movements, there have been conflicting views on the Family and Medical Leave Act and the impact that it has on businesses. President Bill Clinton is a democrat and most of the opposition comes from the Republican Party and the conservatives.
One reason there has been push back from the opposing parties is because conservatives feel that FMLA is a “one-size-fits-all approach to family leave” and “sweeping federal laws” are not the most productive method of bringing about change. Republicans are not against the government helping families spend time together, but they also feel that businesses need to have some independence and autonomy in the issue. In 1990 and in 1992 Republican President George Bush vetoed similar bills because he felt that the “bills did not give employers enough leeway in making decisions about when–and for how long–to offer leave. ” (U.
S. Department of, 2009) Shortly after the act was established, both Democrats and Republicans began proposing addendums or expansions but attempts were unsuccessful because they could not agree on how much involvement the employer should have. The Effect of FMLA Many leaders and professionals in the business world opposed the expansions based on the belief that the needs for them were exaggerated. They also feel that the Family and Medical Leave Act is extremely detrimental to many businesses because it gives the employee the impression that they should be entitled to time off for some of the most trivial of reasons.
The cost to fight an FMLA claim is so expensive that employers basically have no choice when time off is being requested and it seems frivolous. In addition, there is often very little to zero notice given when employees use FMLA, which gives no consideration to the employer or the needs of the business. The major impact that this causes for the organization is in its productivity, the many costs incurred with the lost of productivity, and the cost it takes to pick up the slack. According to a report released by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) the most common difficulties in relation to FMLA were similar across the board.
Human Resource Management professionals reported issues with “tracking/administering intermittent FMLA leave, determining the overall costs incurred while complying with the requirements of the FMLA and determining whether an intermittent serious health condition should be protected by the FMLA. ” (Frincke, pg. 7) There are no statutes or policies in the FMLA that states the employee must furnish a doctor’s note, but many state regulations do require it. If there are any questions in regards to the seriousness of the employee’s condition, the employer can ask that documentation be provided if this requirement is made known before hand.
There are also situations where an employer may dispute a doctor’s recommendation and they may require the employee to get a second opinion. The doctor will then have to determine that the duties of the employer’s job cannot be performed or the requested leave is medically necessary. With the exception of maternity, birth or adoption of child, most employees, typically, can only give up to a week or same days notice. Unfortunately, an episodic event or catastrophic health issue doesn’t allow for much notice.
Maternity notice averaged about two months in advance. Several legal websites, including Findlaw. com and cpmy. com state that in order to avoid disruption in the work place, the employee’s responsibility is to give “reasonable” notice, which is typically 30 days. If the reason for leave is unexpected, employees are to give notice as soon as “practicable”, which can vary depending each circumstance. The employee does not have to specify the request is FMLA, but they must provide the employer with enough information to imply that the leave may qualify for FMLA.
If the employee does not provide sufficient information, it is the employer’s duty to seek out the additional information in order to avoid any potential FMLA claims, which can cause major financial problems for an organization. According to the Christie, Pabarue, Mortensen, and Young law firm, the best ways for organizations to protect themselves is to make sure that they have all FMLA notices posted, include FMLA policies and procedures in employee handbooks, create a specific FMLA notification sheet, have employees verify receipt of all FMLA notices, and designate FMLA leave.
Once all of the logistics of if the FMLA request is legitimate and if proper notification was given has been complete, then comes the hurdle of how to deal with the workload of the employee on leave. In most cases, the workload is temporarily assigned to other employees. In certain instances of longer leaves, employers may seek to hire temporary employees. For each organization, there are pros and cons to the temporary employee and determining whether or not to go that route depends on each individual ircumstance. Managing FMLA Since being signed into effect in 1993, the Family and Medical Leave Act has gone through some provisions and there may also be differences at state and local levels. Possibly, in an attempt to remain competitive in the employer arena, some organizations do offer FMLA benefits that exceed the federal provisions and state laws. Larger organizations and organizations with unions are more likely to offer job-protected leave beyond what the federal laws require.
According to the survey performed by SHRM, the most common additions include “substituting accrued sick/vacation leave for FMLA (51%); allowing more than 12 weeks of job-guaranteed leave (48%); offering job-protected leave to employees who have been employed for less than 12 months (41%); and providing job-protected leave to employees who worked less than 1,250 hours (31%). ” An example of the number one choice amongst employers at 51% is the Paid Family Leave law that passed in the state of California in 2002.
This law allows workers who make contributions to the State Disability Insurance (SDI) fund to receive six weeks of partial pay per year for maternity or adoption purposes or to care for a seriously ill parent, child, spouse, or registered domestic partner. (California PFL, 2002) Some organizations may allow their employees to choose to substitute sick or vacation leave for FMLA; or some organizations may chose to make it a requirement that the employee use accrued paid time in place of FMLA.
In either of the previously mentioned situations, the employee would have to be notified of these provisions in advance, and as a side note, FMLA would be offered as additional time off to the paid time. Challenges of FMLA The amount of FMLA requests by employees have been on the rise and according to the HR professionals who were surveyed by SHRM, the top three reasons for the requests have been for the employee’s own episodic condition, for maternity or adoption, and to care for a parent with a serious health condition.
As occasions of FMLA leave increase, so do the challenges of dealing with all of the arising issues associated with FMLA. Some challenges already discussed include legitimacy of leave requests, loss of productivity and the cost associated, and the morale issues of employees left to handle the extra workload. The number one challenge reported was tracking and administrating intermittent leave, which is when an employee takes small segments of time off. One of the reasons that this has been the most challenging is because there are no regulations or provisions in the act that specifies minimum increments of leave.
Many organizations, especially larger ones, reported it most difficult to track small increments of FMLA leave. In most cases, intermittent leave can be perceived as abuse, depending on the situation. Because of the unpredictability of many ailments and conditions that are not easy to prove medically, many HR managers find this to be a difficult area of FMLA to deal with. Adding to this difficulty, the FMLA also lists a reason for request to be a “serious health condition” which is very broad and can be very subjective. Abuse has also been suspected around the timing of intermittent leave.
HR managers often note intermittent leave to be taken suspiciously around weekends, scheduled days off, and holidays. Recommendations for Managers The first and most important recommendation that employers should heed is being very well versed and educated on the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993. It’s very important to know the intricacies of this law and to be aware of changes and provisions. It is also important to know that although FMLA is a federal law, some states may require more than the federal law does. The most important form required to determine if an employee is eligible for FMLA is the certification form.
Know the rules, regulations, and deadlines surrounding this form; this could be the biggest defense in an organization protection themselves from FMLA abuse. Lastly, do not be afraid to contact the Department of Labor (DOL), because they can answer any questions or concerns that may arise surrounding a suspicious FMLA situation. Conclusion The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 was established to give working parents and head-of-households a better quality of life while protecting their jobs in the process. Administrating and dealing with FMLA may be challenging, but many organizations have demonstrated their support of the
FMLA by exceeding the federal requirements for the law. Most employers realize that FMLA is a benefit to both the employee and the employer because it helps the employer retain valuable employees “while still providing adequate protections and flexibility to ensure that their businesses can still function profitably as they comply with the law. ” (Care works USA) Works Cited Family leave. (2005, July 18). Issues & Controversies On File, Retrieved from http://www. 2facts. com. lib. kaplan. edu/icof_story. aspx? PIN=i0501070&term=fmla Employee out on fmla?. 2011, February 14). Retrieved from http://www. thehrspecialist. com/hrs_list/employment_law/fmla/ Family medical leave act administration recertification tips. (2011, January 31). Retrieved from http://www. careworksusa. com/news/family-medical-leave-act-fmla-administration-recertification-tips/ Family and medical leave act. (n. d. ). Retrieved from http://www. dol. gov/whd/fmla/ Family and medical leave act of 1993. (2010, November). Retrieved from http://en. wikipedia. org/wiki/FMLA Frincke, J, & Scanlan, K. (2007). Fmla and its impact on organizations.
Proceedings of the A survey report by the society for human resource management, http://www. shrm. org/Research/SurveyFindings/Documents/FMLA%20And%20Its%20Impact%20On%20Organizations%20Survey%20Report. pdf Pabarue, J. A. A, & Burke, K. T. (n. d. ). Taking notes of the fmla’s notice requirements. Retrieved from http://www. cpmy. com/files/fmla. pdf Rights and responsibilities under the fmla. (n. d. ). Retrieved from http://employment. findlaw. com/employment/employment-employee-family-medical-leave/employment-employee-family-medical-leave-rights(1). html
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