SHRM: FMLA Needs Corrections After 10 Years

February 4, 2003 ( - Organizations responding to a recent survey say they struggle to comply with complex and length regulations governing the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) including deciding what constitutes a serious health condition under the law.

Respondents to the survey by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) also said they struggled to keep track of time used for intermittent leave under the 10-year-old law. The law provides 12 weeks of job-protected leave for family and medical issues.

In light of these difficulties, SHRM officials said lawmakers need to examine the law to see what needs to be corrected. “Unfortunately, the FMLA has become a national sick leave policy where pink eye, sprained ankles and the common cold have become serious medical conditions,” SHRM President and Chief Executive Officer Susan Meisinger said in a statement. “The society appreciates the benefits FMLA provides to those employees with legitimate family and medical leave requests. It’s clear, however, that the law needs a number of technical corrections to make it truly effective for employees and viable for employers.”

They SHRM survey found that:

  • 63% make exceptions to FMLA to provide more flexibility for employees
  • 57% of organizations offer job protected leave beyond FMLA requirements, such as paid leave, leave for parent-teacher conferences or for employees who have been employed for less than 12 months
  • 62% of organizations assign the work of employees on leave to other employees, while just 15% most often hire temporary employees
  • 34% of HR professionals were aware of employee complaints because of a coworker’s questionable use of FMLA leave
  • Less than half (48%) of leave requests were scheduled in advance
  • Respondents indicated that medical leave was requested twice as often as family leave.

The results of the SHRM survey, conducted January 7 to 22, 2003, are based on the responses of 416 HR professionals.