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February 19, 2007
Most HR Pros Face 'Significant Challenges' in Administering FMLA

Fifty-one percent of HR professionals say that they have had "significant challenges" in administering/granting medical leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) in the last 12 months, according to a survey by the Society for Human Resource Management.

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The survey also found that 78 percent of HR professionals reported that employees do not fully understand FMLA medical leave provisions.

"The fair application of family and medical leave rules is one of the most important challenges and responsibilities facing HR professionals today," says Susan R. Meisinger, president and CEO of SHRM. "Our survey demonstrates that 14 years after the bill was signed into law, the rules--especially those related to the definition of what constitutes a serious medical condition--continue to create more questions than answers."

The Department of Labor is reviewing FMLA regulations for possible changes. The department recently asked for public comments on a series of questions related to FMLA. The deadline for submitting comments was February 16.

The questions covered intermittent FMLA leave, the definition of "eligible employee" under FMLA, the definition of "serious health condition" under FMLA, leave determinations/medical certifications, and other topics.  

SHRM submitted comments to the Department of Labor, recommending that the department:

  • Clarify the definition of "serious health condition" to cover conditions where the employee is unable to work for five or more business days.  This would help to eliminate minor illnesses that Congress did not intend to cover, SHRM says.
  • Require unscheduled intermittent leave to be granted in half day increments to allow the employer to better manage the absence and loss of productivity associated with the leave.
  • Permit an employer to contact an employee's healthcare provider to clarify the employee's medical information. 
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