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February 11, 2013

The FMLA Turns 20!!

Filed under: General HR Buzz6:30 am

Twenty years ago, I had a few years under my belt in my HR career so I thought I was a fairly seasoned HR professional.  Then along came the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1993 which brought along its benefits in granting job-protected leave, but also challenges for HR professionals to sort out how to administer and manage.

Although there are struggles for HR in understanding and interpreting the law, it has had a positive effect on the lives of millions of workers and their families.  The Department of Labor (DOL) issued results of a survey on its use and impact, which gives some valuable statistics and data supporting this.  “The Family and Medical Leave Act codified a simple and fundamental principle:  Workers should not have to choose between the job they have and the family members they love and who need their care,” said acting Secretary of Labor Seth D. Harris.

Results from the study indicate that complying with the FMLA has either no noticeable effect or a positive effect on business operations such as employee absenteeism, turnover, and morale.  And what percentage of workers return to their employer after FMLA leave?  Ninety percent, indicating little risk to businesses that investment in a worker will be lost as a result of leave granted under the act.

We have learned, through the years, the FMLA is often part of what is considered the Bermuda Triangle adding the elements of Workers Compensation and the Americans with Disabilities Act.  In some cases, all three may pertain to an employee”s leave, which can provide challenges for HR to sort out and ensure they are being compliant.  The minimum basics that need to be in place include:

* Eligibility of the employee

* Policy in employee handbook

* Timely documentation and follow-up on all steps of the process

Fortunately, there are many resources available to assist, including publications from the DOL and products such as our HR Suite which includes forms, tools, and sample policies.  Let”s celebrate this law which has benefited workers and their families throughout the last 20 years!


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