Recently, President Bush signed the first changes to the Family & Medical Leave Act (FMLA) since the law was enacted 15 years ago. And then, on February 11, the DOL proposed major changes to the existing rules. The new military FMLA rules take effect immediately!
Military FMLA Leave
First, the new military leave law requires employers to provide up to 26 weeks of FMLA leave to eligible employees to care for recovering injured or ill service members and 12 weeks of leave because of any qualifying "exigency" arising out of the fact that a covered family member is or has been called to be on active duty. The "qualifying exigency" provisions will not be effective until the DOL issues final FMLA regulations defining the term "qualifying exigency." The rest of the law went into effect on January 28.
Proposed Changes to FMLA
The Department of Labor published proposed changes to the FMLA on February 11, that would, in the opinion of many employers, clarify some aspects of FMLA that have proved troublesome in the law’s 15-year history. These include:
- Tightening of notice requirements … on both sides. Employees would now have to let the boss know they need FMLA leave no later than the next day following a qualified need for the leave. Now workers can take 2 days before they report in. What’s more, they’ll need to follow tighter call-in procedures. For their part, employers will now have to provide notice of FMLA rights annually, but will have longer to provide designation of leave – 5 days instead of the current 2 days.
- Easing of medical certification. Under current law, employers are barred from contacting a worker’s health provider about the need for leave. The proposed changes would remove that restriction. Some employers have looked for this change so doctors have fuller information about the worker’s responsibilities and working conditions before making judgments on a worker’s need for time off.
- Continuing treatment redefined. Workers now can qualify as needing continuing treatment if they make two medical visits over any period of time … even months. The new changes would require those two visits in a 30-day period, making it more likely that there really is a serious condition present.
In addition to the above, there are further proposed changes dealing with how nonconsecutive periods of service are calculated to determine FMLA eligibility, and other matters.
For more information on the changes to FLMA please refer to the following Department of Labor website http://www.dol.gov/esa/whd/ .