Episode 41: FMLA's Impact On Your Practice
August 03, 2021
Employees often ask about taking leave through the Family Medical Leave Act, otherwise known as FMLA. As the employer, like when you own your own practice, you need to understand FMLA and everything that goes along with it.
FMLA allows employees to take an unpaid leave of absence for up to 12 weeks for medical reasons or family reasons. The first thing I want to point out is that FMLA is only applicable to employers who have 50 or more employees working at least 20 hours per week to comply with FMLA. Employees who have worked at a company for at least 1,250 hours during a 12-month period are eligible for FMLA.
Realistically, many smaller medical practices aren’t legally required to provide their employees with FMLA. It'a very likely that your employees will think they’re entitled to FMLA regardless of the size of your practice. This is why you need to have clear cut policies about leave and what your practice offers if you are not obligated by law to offer FMLA.
1. Develop comprehensive policies
- Have a written policy that defines what type and amount of unpaid leave you will be offering
- The policy needs to apply to all employees
- Include the policy in your employee handbook
2. Define the 12-month period in which the employee can access it
3. Determine the parameters of your policy
- Will you require your employee to exhaust all of their paid-time-off benefits before accessing unpaid leave?
- Or can the employee choose whether to use PTO or unpaid leave? Now you may be thinking why would any employee want to take unpaid leave if they can get paid?
The whole reason is all of this is important is that you are trying to run a business. In order for your practice to run efficiently, you need to understand your staffing requirements. You need to think about how long you realistically can hold a job for someone who is out. And, of course, how you are going to staff their position during their absence. Having a well-defined policy will help prevent misunderstandings.
One of the most difficult situations though, is when, near the end of their leave, the employee requests that they need a different schedule. Under FMLA, the law states that you only have to guarantee that the employee has the same position to return to, or a similar position with the same hours and benefits. They are not obligated to accommodate a new work schedule after the FMLA leave is complete. If you have less than 50 full-time employees, you’ll still want a policy statement and I would recommend using FMLA as a guideline.
You also need to understand your obligations as an employer when an employee returns to work. You may have an obligation under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to provide a reasonable accommodations.
- Provide each of your employees with a list of essential job functions
- Make sure that the employee’s current job description is up-to-date
- Determine what reasonable accommodations can be made to return the employee to work
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