Benefits & Compensation News

FMLA’s March deadline has passed: Have you updated forms, practices?

As the clock struck midnight on March 8, a slew of new FMLA regulations took effect. Have you updated your forms, posters and internal policies? Perhaps more importantly, do your managers know what else counts as FMLA leave now?

Last winter, the DOL enacted amendments to the FMLA made under the National Defense Authorization Act of 2010. Then it released a final rule in February, implementing those changes effective March 8.

Those changes include:

Expanding qualifying exigency leave

  • The new regulations expand eligibility for qualifying exigency leave to family members of regular Armed Services members. Previously, only family members of those in the National Guard and Reserves could qualify. The new regs also require the service member to be deployed to a foreign country in order for family members to qualify for exigency leave.
  • Eligible employees will now be able to take leave to care for a military member’s parent who is incapable of self-care, as long as the care is necessitated by the service member’s call to active duty. Qualifying care can include arranging for alternative care, providing care that is needed immediately, admitting or transferring the parent to a care facility, or attending meetings with staff at a care facility.
  • The amount of time an employee can take exigency leave during a military family member’s “rest and recuperation” period has also been extended from 5 to 15 days.

Expanding military caregiver leave

  • Veterans can now take leave if they are undergoing medical treatment, recuperation, or therapy due to a “serious injury or illness.”
  • A “covered veteran” is a person who was discharged or released for reasons that were not “dishonorable” at any time during the five-year period prior to when the request for leave was taken.
  • The period between the enactment of the mandates (Oct. 28, 2009) and the effective date of the final rule (March 8, 2013) will be excluded from determining the five-year eligibility period for covered veteran status. For example, if a service member had three years remaining on his eligibility on Oct. 28, 2009, he still had three years remaining as of March 8, 2013.
  • The definition of “serious injury or illness” has been expanded to include an injury or illness that existed before the beginning of a service member or veteran’s active duty and was aggravated by service in the line of active duty.

Expanding who can provide certification

  • Any healthcare provider authorized to complete a medical certification for other types of FMLA leave is now also able to provide medical certification for military caregiver leave. Previously, only healthcare providers with the Department of Defense, Department of Veterans Affairs or with TRICARE were authorized to provide such certification.

Needed: New FMLA forms, practices

The final rule also requires that employers display a new FMLA poster and begin using new FMLA forms.

The DOL has updated its sample FMLA forms, which employers have the option to use. Previously, the DOL issued sample FMLA forms in the appendices to its regulations. Now they’ll only be available on the DOL’s Wage and Hour Division website.

However, it’s also crucial that you update your policies and sit down with managers who have to deal with leave requests. You’ll want to make sure they know what else now counts as FMLA leave so they don’t infringe upon employees’ newly expanded rights.

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