Family and Medical Leave Act: What It Is, Who Qualifies and How It Changed In 2022
No matter how diligent and dedicated an employee may be, sometimes, life gets in the way of “business as usual.” The need to take care of an ailing parent, a newborn child, or to deal with a personal health emergency could become impossible to do without extended time off work. The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) makes it possible for that employee to take care of the personal issues at hand without giving up his or her job.
Where did the FMLA originate? What does it cover? And how did it change in 2022? We’ve answered those questions here.
What is FMLA?
The Family and Medical Leave Act was written into law under the Clinton administration in 1993 to ensure organizations give employees the time they need to care for themselves and loved ones in serious situations without fear of losing their jobs. FMLA entitles employees to 12 unpaid work weeks off, while allowing them to maintain their health benefits, position and seniority. In short, it enables employees to care for themselves or their family members with the assurance that they’ll have a job to go back to, and that they won’t be forced out or demoted because of their time away.
How do employees qualify for FMLA?
FMLA requirements apply to employers that have at least 50 employees on the payroll working a minimum of 20 workweeks in the year. To qualify for FLMA benefits, the employee has to have worked for that company for at least 12 months and worked 1,250 hours or more during the past year, as well as meet one of conditions for leave outlined by FMLA.
What is covered under FMLA?
By its definition, FMLA covers serious family- and medical-related situations. These include:
- The birth of a child or the care of a child up to one year old.
- The adoption or foster placement of a child up to one year after the placement.
- The need to care for a close family member with a serious medical condition.
- A severe health crisis that renders the employee unable to perform essential functions of his or her job.
- A qualifying situation regarding a close family member on active duty, including making financial/legal arrangements when the serviceperson is quickly deployment overseas, to helping with childcare for that deployed parent.
- The assumption of caretaking responsibilities for a relative on active duty or is a covered veteran who has a serious injury or illness.
Under these conditions, there are some more specific stipulations. For example, “child” can refer to a biological or adopted child, or someone for whom the employee is the primary caregiver. It can also include an adult who cannot care for themselves because of mental or physical disabilities. When caring for a parent, FMLA can also extend to someone who acted like a parent in the employee’s life. This doesn’t include in-laws but does include legal guardians or other adults who raised that employee during childhood.
How long can the employee be absent from work under FMLA?
Eligible employees are entitled to 12 workweeks of leave in a 12-month period for all non-military-related reasons.
Eligible employees who are requesting FMLA benefits for military reasons are entitled to 26 weeks of leave in a 12-month period, rather than 12.
The law leaves it up to individual employers as to whether they will require employees to use paid time off (PTO), vacation, or sick days for some or all of their leave under FMLA. When it is medically necessary, employees can take FMLA intermittently for the same qualifying reason.
What is the difference between FMLA and Paid Family Medical Leave (PFML)?
Whereas FMLA is federal legislation, Paid Family Medical Leave, or PFML, is state legislation, offered in 11 U.S. states, and the District of Columbia, although, at the time of this writing, the law in four of the 11 states has yet to go into effect.
PFML (which is sometimes also referred to as PML and PFL) afford paid time off for medical or family-related illnesses or incidents, with the length of the allowed leave varying state-by-state. The program is typically funded through employee and employer contributions, which is another way it differs from FMLA. Although employees most often apply for benefits and are either approved or denied for benefits through the state, they are required to keep their employer informed, with some states requiring the employee to give their employer 30 days notice.
Changes to FMLA in 2022
Although proposals are on the table to expand FMLA under the Build Back Better plan, on the federal level, little has changed thus far. However, many states are making alterations, which can include adding length of service requirements for employees, and the number of times an employee can apply for leave under FMLA.
For more detailed information on FMLA, and to download an employer guide, click here.