The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is a federal law that was enacted in 1993 to provide eligible employees with unpaid leave for specific family and medical reasons. The FMLA has significantly impacted the workforce since it was enacted in 1993.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of March 2020, 17 percent of workers in the United States had access to unpaid family leave through their employers. Additionally, a study by the National Partnership for Women and Families found that the FMLA has been used more than 200 million times since its inception and has helped millions of families balance work and caregiving responsibilities.
Over the years, the FMLA has undergone several changes to better protect the rights of employees and their families. The latest change was made in 2021, and it impacts HR teams and top HR software solutions in a significant way. This article will discuss the recent changes to the FMLA and how they affect HR teams and software.
What is FMLA?
Before covering the impact of recent FMLA changes, it's essential to understand what FMLA is and what it entails so that you understand how changes impact your HR staff, employees, and HR software programs. The FMLA provides eligible employees with up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave per year for specific reasons. These reasons include:
- The birth of a child and caring for the newborn child within one year of birth
- The placement with the employee of a child for adoption or foster care and to care for the newly placed child within one year of placement
- To care for an immediate family member (spouse, child, or parent) with a serious health condition
- To take medical leave when the employee is unable to work because of a serious health condition
For qualifying exigencies arising from the employee's spouse, child, or parent being on covered active duty or call to covered active duty status as a National Guard, Reserves, or Regular Armed Forces member. FMLA also provides eligible employees with up to 26 weeks of unpaid leave to care for a covered service member with a serious injury or illness.
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Recent Changes to FMLA
On March 14, 2021, the Department of Labor (DOL) issued a Final Rule that significantly changed the FMLA. The changes affect several areas, including eligibility, notice, certification, and leave calculations. These changes should be a consideration for determining what your HR software should include in order to properly administrate employee benefits.
The first change concerns the eligibility requirements for employees. To be eligible for FMLA leave, an employee must have worked for the employer for at least 12 months and have worked at least 1,250 hours during the 12 months immediately preceding the start of the leave. Under the new rule, employees who are on military-covered active duty or call to active duty are now given an additional 12 months to meet the eligibility requirement. This change makes it easier for military personnel to access FMLA leave.
Another significant change involves the notice requirement for employees who need to take FMLA leave. Previously, employees were required to give notice of their need for FMLA leave as soon as practicable. Under the new rule, employers can now require employees to follow their usual call-in procedures for absences, as long as the employee is informed of this requirement in the employer's FMLA policy. This change is important to consider when you are developing your HR software suite to ensure all the correct FMLA leave information is updated and administered to employees as needed.
Certification is the process by which an employer verifies that an employee's request for FMLA leave is legitimate. The DOL made several changes to the certification process, including:
- Clarifying that employers must provide employees with at least 15 calendar days to provide certification documentation
- Allowing employers to request additional information if the initial certification is incomplete or insufficient
- Allowing employers to contact an employee's health care provider directly to clarify information on a certification form
Leave Calculations Changes
The final change to the FMLA concerns how employers calculate the amount of FMLA leave that an employee takes. Previously, employers were allowed to use any method to calculate FMLA leave, as long as the method was consistently applied. Under the new rule, employers must use the smallest increment of time that their payroll system uses to account for absences, which is typically one hour.
FMLA Changes: Impact on HR Teams and Software
The changes to the FMLA have a significant impact on HR teams and software. Here are some examples of how these changes may impact you use HR software and administrate benefits for your company.
Impact on HR Teams
The changes to the FMLA will require HR teams to review and update their policies and procedures to ensure compliance with the new rules. HR software upgrades may also be necessary to ensure that all benefits are administered correctly in a streamlined, centralized system for both HR staff and employees. HR teams will need to educate managers and supervisors on the changes and the impact they may have on the workplace.
HR teams will also need to review their FMLA forms and documentation to ensure that they are in compliance with the new rules. This includes updating their certification forms and ensuring that they provide employees with at least 15 calendar days to provide certification documentation.
Additionally, HR teams will need to train their staff on how to properly calculate FMLA leave. They will also need to review and update their payroll systems to ensure that they can account for absences in the smallest increment of time that the system uses.
Impact on HR Software
The changes to the FMLA will also impact HR software solutions and employee management. HR software providers will need to update their systems to ensure compliance with the new rules. This includes updating their FMLA forms and documentation, as well as updating their payroll systems to account for absences in the smallest increment of time that the system uses. Additionally, HR software providers will need to provide training and support to their clients on how to properly calculate FMLA leave and how to use the updated forms and documentation.
The changes to the FMLA are designed to improve access to FMLA leave for eligible employees and to make it easier for employers to comply with the law. While the changes are significant, they provide clarity and consistency to the FMLA process, which can benefit both employees and employers.
HR teams, HR software companies, and providers will need to review and update their policies and systems to ensure compliance with the new rules. It is important for HR teams to communicate these changes to their employees and to provide training and support to ensure a smooth transition to the new FMLA rules. By doing so, employers can continue to provide their employees with the benefits and protections afforded by the FMLA while maintaining compliance with the law.