The new forms aim to streamline previous forms and make them easier to understand and use.
As more employees look to Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) to attend to their own serious medical condition or that of a family member, the Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division has provided new guidance and documentation. In July, they issued new forms that employers can use to administer and manage FMLA requests.
The DOL has created 2 completely new forms:
- One notifies employees of their eligibility, rights, and responsibilities when applying for family or medical leave
- The second designates whether the leave request meets the criteria for FMLA eligibility
An additional 5 new forms are also available to document and verify the leave request.
All the new forms are optional — employers do not have to use them. Some businesses utilize older FMLA forms, either created by the company or downloaded from the DOL website. These forms continue to be valid and employers may continue to use them. However, the newer forms provide more information to employees and businesses and might be a best practice to better document and track requests and leaves.
Notice of Eligibility & Rights and Responsibilities form
The first new form helps employees understand the requirements to qualify and request FMLA time off. The Notice of Eligibility & Rights and Responsibilities can be the first step in the process to request leave under the FMLA. When employees request leave or an employer believes their staffer may be eligible, the company can use this form to offer more information on the process.
The new Notice of Eligibility form helps clarify rights and responsibilities for the staffer and can provide additional documentation for the company’s medical file.
The worker must have completed 1 year of service and have worked at least 1,250 hours to be eligible. Remember, an organization must have a minimum of 50 full-time or full-time equivalent staffers on the payroll before the law requires FMLA.
This new form also asks employees to provide a request for leave within 5 business days of the need to take time off. It also provides a due date on the form to return to the HR Department or business owner. For many organizations, the FMLA process begins with an oral request from the employee. Following that, the employer then provides the standard FMLA forms to the staff member. The new Notice of Eligibility form helps clarify rights and responsibilities for the staffer and can provide additional documentation for the company’s medical file.
Designation Notice form
A second, new Designation Notice can be the next step in the FMLA request process. This form specifies whether the employer has deemed the leave is eligible under the act. It also designates the request as potential FMLA time off. It also includes an expected duration of the leave. As a recommendation, employers should return this form to staff members within 5 days of the request for leave.
5 new certification forms
For employees to be eligible for FMLA leave — either for their own serious health condition or that of a family member — forms are, of course, required for documentation. The new forms issued by the DOL provide information from the employee and the healthcare provider on the specifics of the medical issue warranting leave. They include anticipated leave duration and the projected return-to-work date.
Some significant updates to the certification forms include:
- A specific date when the employee must complete the forms and return them to the employer
- Brief descriptions of serious health conditions that may qualify employees for leave under the Act; these include chronic, permanent, long-term conditions, etc.
- An option for online completion and electronic signatures
The DOL’s newest version of leave request forms fall under 5 categories:
Healthcare provider certifications for serious health conditions
- Employee’s serious health condition: This is the form required when an employee is seeking leave under the FMLA for their own medical condition. It offers healthcare professionals more detailed options on the type of condition necessitating the leave. The options include inpatient care, chronic conditions, and conditions requiring multiple treatments.
- Family member’s serious health condition: This is the form required when an employee is seeking leave under the FMLA for a family member’s medical condition. The form outlines family members that trigger eligibility under the FMLA. Family members include spouse, parent, and children under 18. A child over 18 who is incapable of self-care because of a mental or physical disability is also eligible.
Certifications of military family leave
- Qualifying Exigency: This form is used when a request for leave arises because of the foreign deployment of the employee’s spouse, child, or parent. Employers have the right to require a copy of the military member’s active duty order, or any other documents provided by the military, that indicate the family member is being deployed or called to active duty status. Employees approved under this leave request are eligible for up to 12 weeks of job-protected leave per year.
- Military Caregiver Leave of a Current Servicemember: These forms are used to attend to the needs of a spouse, parent, child or next-of-kin currently enlisted in the military with a serious injury or illness. Employees approved under this leave request are eligible for up to 26 weeks of job-protected leave per year.
- Military Caregiver Leave of a Veteran: These forms are used to attend to the needs of a spouse, parent, child, or next-of-kin of a covered veteran of the United States military with a serious injury or illness. Eligibility for these leave requests includes spouse, parent, child, next-of-kin, or anyone who has assumed the “obligations of a parent.” These may include caregivers who have no biological or legal relationship to the veteran. Employees approved under this leave request are eligible for up to 26 weeks of job-protected leave per year.
Leave request process
A best practice is to document everything to do with an FMLA leave request.
Businesses may use the DOL-provided forms, older forms, or create one specifically for their organization. Remember that requests for medical certification for FMLA leave may only inquire about information directly related to the leave. Employers cannot inquire about other personal or medical information.
Employers should respond to leave requests in a timely manner — typically within 5 days of receipt of the paperwork. For most eligible employees, employers grant FMLA leave requests if the worker’s medical certification is accurate and complete. There are some, but very few, reasons a request can be denied. The DOL provides guidance to employers and staff members on legitimate reasons for denials.
A best practice is to document everything to do with an FMLA leave request. The 2 new notices provided by the DOL are a great starting point. Follow up with the leave certifications received by the physician and start a timeline to track leave requested and used.
Remember to keep a separate medical file for employees who request and/or receive FMLA. You should not include their healthcare information in their general personnel file. More information on FMLA is available on the Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division website.