Wednesday, November 19, 2008

New FMLA rules: What you need to know

On Monday, November 17, the U.S. Department of Labor released the first set of revisions to the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). The new regulations implement the new military leave law and make several changes to existing FMLA rules.

Regarding military leave, the new FMLA rule:

  • Expands FMLA protections for family members caring for a covered service member with a serious injury or illness incurred in the line of duty. These family members may take up to 26 workweeks of leave in a 12-month period.

  • Employees may also take up to 12 weeks of FMLA job-protected leave for a “qualifying exigency” related to a family member in the military to manage their affairs. “Qualifying exigencies” include for example, short-notice deployments, military events, counseling, childcare and post-deployment activities.

Other notable changes:

  • Serious health condition. To qualify for FMLA leave for a “serious health condition,” an employee or family member bust be incapacitated for more than three consecutive days and make at least two visits to a health care provider. The two health care visits must occur within 30 days of the period of incapacity. The new rules also clarify that “periodic visits to a health care provider” for chronic serious health conditions is at least two visits to a health care provider each year.

  • Medical certification process. Employers have up to five business days to request medical certification after receiving an employees FMLA leave notice. Employees must provide medical certification within 15 days after requesting FMLA leave, including foreseeable leave.

  • Employer notice requirements. Employers must provide employees with four different notices: general, eligibility, rights and responsibilities, and designation.

The new FMLA regulations will take effect on January 16, 2009. As an employer, you will be required to post a new federal Family and Medical Leave poster and update your FMLA forms to include several new forms contained within the latest regulations.

Before the new FMLA rules go into effect, you should inform your staff about the recent changes and revise your current FMLA policies, procedures and forms to reflect the latest regulations. Remember to post an updated FMLA poster as soon as one becomes available.

For more information, read this FMLA changes Q & A. If you would like to flip through the 700+ pages of the FMLA changes as they appear in the Federal Register, you can read the official document.

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