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April 11, 2008
Survey: HR Pros Support Proposed FMLA Changes

Human resource professionals support recently proposed regulations covering the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), according to a survey by WorldatWork.

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In February, the Department of Labor published a proposal with new FMLA regulations addressing notice requirements for employers and employees, medical certification, the definition of serious health condition, nonconsecutive periods of service, joint-employer coverage, and other topics.

The survey found that HR professionals generally welcome proposed changes that could ease some of the administrative burden that FMLA creates within their companies. The proposed change that ranked highest among respondents was the requirement to give advance notice for non-emergency, foreseeable leaves. Ninety-five percent of respondents supported the proposed change, with 72 percent of all respondents saying they "strongly agree" that the change should be made.

In the proposal, the department said that absent emergency situations, where an employee becomes aware of a need for FMLA leave less than 30 days in advance, the department expects that it will be practicable for the employee to provide notice of the need for leave either the same day (if the employee becomes aware of the need for leave during work hours) or the next business day (if the employee becomes aware of the need for leave after work hours).

The WorldatWork survey found that 49 percent of intermittent FMLA absences are scheduled, but most intermittent leave users (81 percent) are providing no more than a 24-hour notice, and over half give notice the day of the absence or even later. Survey respondents said that suspected employee abuse is their number one concern about intermittent FMLA leave.

The department's FMLA proposal also covers the procedures employees use to request leave.

The department is proposing that "absent unusual circumstances, employees may be required to follow established call-in procedures (except one that imposes a more stringent timing requirement than the regulations provide), and failure to properly notify employers of absences may cause a delay or denial of FMLA protections. Unusual circumstances would include situations such as when an employee is hospitalized and his/her spouse calls the supervisor to report the absence, unaware that the attendance policy requires that the human resources department be called instead of the supervisor."

In the WorldatWork survey, the second through fifth most popular proposed changes were:

  • Allow employers to require a fitness-for-duty certificate after return from intermittent leave to jobs that could endanger themselves or others or that they may be unable to perform.
  • Employers could require annual medical certification when condition lasts more than one year.
  • Allow employers request for recertification of an ongoing condition every six months, with an absence.
  • Lengthen eligibility and designation notice requirements to five business days.
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