Employers Report Confusion over Implementation of FMLA

July 27, 2007 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - A recent survey by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) found nearly 40% of HR professionals say confusion over implementation of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) has led to leave being granted in error.

Respondents to the survey reported there have been more requests to take FMLA leave in the last five years compared to 10 years ago, particularly for episodic conditions such as ongoing injuries, ongoing illnesses, and/or non-life threatening conditions, according to a SHRM press release. One of the most challenging FMLA issues cited by organizations surveyed was tracking/administering intermittent FMLA leave and many HR professionals noted that the timing of intermittent leave requests – around weekends, holidays, or pleasant weather – raised suspicions of abuse.

The other most challenging FMLA issue cited by respondents was determining the overall costs incurred while complying with the requirements of the FMLA.

Key findings of the “FMLA and Its Impact on Organizations” survey also included, according to the press release:

  • Of the leave taken by employees, 59% was for medical reasons, 38% was for family-related reasons, and 38% was for an employee’s episodic condition.
  • The number of organizations that offer job protected leave above and beyond FMLA regulations fell from 59% in 2003 to 44% in 2007.
  • Respondents admitted that the FMLA can have a negative impact on employee absences (63%), employee productivity (55%) and business productivity (54%).
  • Fifty-five percent of organizations now offer sick time as part of a paid time off plan that includes vacation and personal days, while 37% offer sick time as a separate benefit.
  • During an employee’s FMLA leave, nearly nine out of 10 organizations attend to the employee’s workload by assigning work temporarily to other employees.

A report of SHRM’s survey of 521 respondents representing publicly- and privately-owned companies, nonprofits, and the government sector can be obtained by members at www.shrm.org .

Another report recently released by the Department of Labor summarizing responses it received from a Request for Information about FMLA regulations indicated employers were concerned over FMLA-created business management and attendance control issues (See FMLA Creates Concern over Business Management and Attendance ).

More information about the FMLA is available from the U.S. Department of Labor here .