For the last twenty years, many employees have benefited from the availability of the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), and employers have become accustomed to their requirements under the law. As of FMLA's 20-year anniversary, the Department of Labor issued their final ruling on the most recent proposed changes which amends a few components of FMLA. Employers subject to FMLA should take careful notice of the new regulations to ensure their compliance when these regulations go into effect on March 8, 2013.
Here is a highlight of some of the key changes to FMLA:
- Qualifying Exigency Leave - National Guard and Reserves and the Regular Armed Forces are now included as a defined military member. Active duty requires deployment to a foreign country. A qualifying exigency leave now includes caring for a military member's parent who is incapable of self-care. An eligible employee may now take up to 15 days for a qualified Rest and Recuperation qualifying exigency leave.
- Military Caregiver Leave - A service member now includes covered veterans who are undergoing medical treatment, recuperation, or therapy for a serious injury or illness. A covered veteran is defined as an individual discharged or released any time during the 5-year period prior to the first date of the employee's FMLA leave to care for the covered veteran.
- Serious Illness - The definition of a serious illness for a current service member now includes an injury or illness that existed before the beginning of the member's active duty which was aggravated by service in the line of active duty. For a covered veteran, they are now covered under the serious illness clause for an injury or illness incurred or aggravated during active duty that manifested itself before or after becoming a veteran.
- Documentation Requirements - A non-military physician may now provide a certification for military caregiver leave. When taking a Rest and Recuperation leave, a copy of the military member's Rest and Recuperation leave orders must be provided to the employer.
Employers need to carefully review all of the new regulations and make any necessary updates to their policies and procedures to maintain their compliance, including posting the new FMLA poster reflecting the new regulations. As FMLA continues to expand and the risk for non-compliance increases, employers may consider the option of outsourcing their FMLA administration or retaining a FMLA consultant or legal counsel for expert advise.
The Department of Labor has updated their website with some great resources detailing the new regulations. The following are direct links to these new online resources.
FMLA Final Ruling on 2013 New Regulations
Employee Guide to Military Family Leave
Employer FAQ on 2013 New Regulations
Employer Side-by-Side by Comparison of Old and New Regulations
New Employer FMLA Poster
Employers are subject to FMLA if they employ 50 or more employees for each working day during each of the 20 or more calendar work weeks in the current or past calendar year.
FMLA entitles eligible employees to take an unpaid, job-protected leave for specific family and medical reasons. During this time period, the employer must also continue the employee's group health coverage under the same terms as prior to the leave. The eligible employee may take a 12-week leave for the birth of a child, placement of adoptive/foster child in the employee's home, care for the employee's spouse, child or parent with serious health condition, serious health condition not allowing the employee to work, or qualifying exigency from employee's spouse, son, daughter, or parent who is a covered military member on covered active duty. A 26-week leave is available to care for a covered service member with a serious injury or illness. This includes the employee's spouse, son, daughter, parent, or next of kin.