DATABASICS Time & Expense Blog

The Trouble with the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is...


The trouble with the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is… it has to be computerized. And we’re not talking spreadsheets. What about it makes it so difficult to manage manually?

Mainly, there’s a lot of interaction between the employer and employee, and you have to get the timing right. 

Let’s look at some of the provisions of the federal law: 

  • Leave to bond with a newborn, adopted or foster child extends up to 12 months after the birth or placement. You need to keep track of the birth or placement date and check leave against the 12 month limit.

  • The employee gets no less than 15 calendar days to obtain requested medical certification. The employee gets at least 7 calendar days to fix a deficiency that you discover in the certification the employee submits. 2 more dates to keep track of, 2 more elapsed time counters.

  • Medical certification in general, should be requested at the time an employee gives notice of the need for leave or within five business days. If the leave is unforeseen, the employer should request medical certification within five days after the leave begins. The 5 day count begins on the notification date or if none, on the first day leave is taken.  Note this is business days, not calendar days. 

  • The employer can ask for recertification every 6 months or more often under certain circumstances: if the prior certification says the condition will last for no more than 30 days, the employer can ask for recertification every 30 days.  If the minimum duration is more than 30 days, no sooner than the minimum duration up to the 60 day limit. Makes you think twice about asking for recertification.

  • If the employee can foresee the need to take FMLA more than 30 days out, the employee must give 30 days notice. Unless they can’t.

  • An employer has 5 business days to accept an employee’s FMLA leave request. This also applies to the employer’s discovery that potential FMLA leave is being taken without an explicit leave request by the employee. If the employer rejects it, he must provide at least one reason why. Not only the date of a request must be recorded, but, alternately, the date the employer receives information that suggests that the employee’s absence might be of a FMLA qualifying nature.

Related Article:  5 Steps for Efficiently Enforcing Absence Leave Policies


At minimum, your record-keeping must be meticulous and you must computerize the business rules so you know what to do when.  Or you could grant everyone unlimited leave without pay with full rights of return.  That would likely keep you from running afoul of any FMLA regulations. Unfortunately there isn’t much mid-ground.

We recommend having a formal absence management system in place, and it will not only make your life easier but it will also mitigate the risk of legal issues from popping up. 

For more information, contact us or call (800) 599-0434.

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