What are best practices in determining employee eligibility for medical leave?

As a human resources professional facing the tough question of employee eligibility for medical leave, you’ll want to think about several things, including the reason behind the request for leave the validity of the request how long the employee has been working at the company In general, your primary source of guidance is the Family […]

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As a human resources professional facing the tough question of employee eligibility for medical leave, you’ll want to think about several things, including

  • the reason behind the request for leave
  • the validity of the request
  • how long the employee has been working at the company

In general, your primary source of guidance is the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which enables employees to receive up to 12 weeks per year of unpaid leave for specific family or health-related reasons. To ensure that both the employer and employee are treated fairly when these family or health-related issues arise, you should implement the following practices.

Standard Eligibility Requirements

First, you need to determine whether the employee meets the standard eligibility requirements for FMLA. To be eligible, the employee must have a valid reason and have worked

  • A minimum of 1,250 hours in the past 12 months according to the Fair Labor Standards Act
  • For at least 12 months for the employer
  • At a location where the company employs 50 or more employees within 75 miles

Employee Completion of Forms

When eligibility has been determined under the standard described above, you must issue to the employee a Notice of Eligibility, Rights & Responsibilities, and Medical Certification forms. These forms help you administer FMLA leave. Typically, if the medical leave is for the birth of a child or for workers’ compensation injuries, medical certification from the employee is not necessary.

Obtaining Sufficient Information to Make a Decision

Sometimes, employees may return a medical certification form that is incomplete or that has insufficient information. In this case, the employee must be notified of the consequences of not correcting the issue and given at least seven days to fix it. An alternative option is that as a human resources manager, you can contact the employee’s healthcare provider for clarification and authentication regarding the employee’s medical issues. If the information isn’t corrected, the employee may be denied medical leave.

Requesting a Second Opinion

If you doubt the validity of the medical certification, you may require the employee to seek a second opinion from a medical professional, at your expense as an employer. While the outcome of the medical certification is pending, the employee is entitled to medical leave. Once the second medical opinion is provided, if it doesn’t entitle the employee to medical leave, you may deny the medical leave.

Not Eligible for FMLA

If the employee is ineligible for FMLA, the employer may offer a medical or disability-related leave as a reasonable accommodation under the American with Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA does not specifically require employers to provide leave. However, it does require employers to make reasonable accommodations for qualified employees with disabilities. Accommodations can include modifications to work schedules, such as leave. There is no set leave period mandated because accommodations depend on individual circumstances and should generally be granted unless doing so would result in “undue hardship” to the employer. If you do plan to offer a medical leave to the the employee under ADA, you may request medical certification from the employee to make a determination.

Additionally, several states and local jurisdictions have medical leave requirements and various optional leaves. You should contact your state’s Department of Labor for details to ensure you are in compliance with any statutory requirements and assess any optional leaves you may want to offer employees.

As you navigate employee medical leave eligibility, you’ll face cases where there are easy answers, while others will present challenges. In every case, keep in mind the requirements: to assess the nature of the request, its validity through medical proof, and how long the employee has been working for the company. These guidelines will help you create and enforce a policy that works for your company and your employees.

Helpful Link:

20 Years of FMLA

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