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How will the Family Leave Bill impact your mission critical projects?

Government rules will change the ways you can staff your projects -- are you ready?

A new law on the books will make your life very interesting. Before it was your option on what to do when you had a family situation that an employee needed to deal with. Now your options will be limited. There is a whole new area of concern that we all must be aware of.

To understand the impact of this, new laws will have to be learned and understood. These impacts will be as complex as any you have seen so far. Add this to the Americans with Disabilities Act and we are now all in the business of being more than just the employer.

You should anticipate making changes to your staffing plans and modifying your employee handbooks. As we proceed into this new arena, beware of the pitfalls that prior mandated government rules have had on how your business is conducted.

What employees are eligible for leave?

To be eligible to request leave under the Act, an employee must have been employed for at least 12 months and during that time period must have completed a minimum of 1,250 hours of service.

What employers must provide leave?

Employers who employ at least 50 employees at or within 75 miles of a worksite must comply. The impact of this on branch operations will be high.

How long must the leave be?

An eligible employee is entitled to request up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave during any 12 month period.

What reasons constitute a basis on which a leave can be requested?

Leave must be granted for any of the following reasons:

  • Birth of a child of the employee;
  • Placement of a child with the employee for adoption or foster care;
  • Care of a spouse, child or parent of employee if such individual has a serious health condition;
  • A serious health condition of the employee.

Are any alternatives to a 12 week leave available?

If agreed to by the employer and employee, leave can be taken on an intermittent basis or on a reduced leave schedule (i.e., a schedule that reduces the usual number of hours per workweek or hours per workday).

How does this new leave interact with other leaves an employer already offers?

An employee may be required to take any accrued paid leave first, taking the balance of the 12 week period on an unpaid basis.

What obligations do employees have with regard to the leave?

Where possible, an employee must give at least 30 days' notice of the need to take a leave. For a leave relating to medical treatment, the employee must also make a reasonable effort to schedule the treatment so as not to disrupt unduly the operations of the employer.

What documentation can an employer require of an employee requesting a leave under the Act?

In the case of a leave for medical treatment, the employer may require a certification from the health care provider. The certification shall contain the following:

  • The date on which the serious health condition commenced.
  • The probable duration of the condition.
  • The appropriate medical facts regarding the condition.
  • If the medical treatment is for an individual other than the employee, a statement that the eligible employee is needed to care for the individual and an estimate of the amount of time that such employee is needed to provide care.
  • If the medical treatment is for the employee himself or herself, a statement that the employee is unable to perform the functions of the position of the employee.
  • In the case of intermittent leave or leave on a reduced leave schedule, the dates on which treatment is expected to be given and the duration of such treatment.

What happens when the employee returns from the leave?

The employee has the right to return to his old or an equivalent position. An employer is allowed to require a certification of fitness to return to work for an employee who has taken a leave relating to his own medical treatment, provided such certification does not conflict with state or local law or with a collective bargaining agreement.

Are any employees exempt from the provisions of this Act?

An employer does not have to permit the taking of a leave by any employee who is salaried and in the top 10% of employees, ranked by compensation, if the taking of leave would cause substantial and grievous economic injury to the employer.

How must health care benefits be handled during the leave?

During the period of the leave, the employer must keep group health insurance in place on the same basis as is applicable for active employees (i.e., the employee can only be charged the normal employee premium, not the COBRA premium). If the employee fails to return to employment at the end of the leave, the employer has the right to recover the premium paid by the employer unless the employee is unable to return because of the continuation, recurrence or onset of a serious health condition that entitled the employee to leave or because of other circumstances beyond the control of the employee.

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