Official FMLA Notice
Have a packet of forms available to distribute when an employee requests leave. This should include an Employee's Request for Family and Medical Leave form. The purpose of this form is for the employee to indicate the type of FMLA leave she is requesting, when it will begin, and when she expects to return. You are also required to give the employee a copy of the company's FMLA policy and an FMLA Employer Response to Employee Request for FMLA. The fourth and last form, the Certificate of Health Care Provider form, is explained in more detail below. Employers are required by law to distribute these forms to employees within two days of a verbal request for leave. Not all leaves are foreseeable, such as a sudden illness or accident of the employee or a qualifying family member. If the employee has no advance notice of the leave, give him the paperwork as soon as you receive his verbal request. Sample copies of these forms may be found in Appendix A.
The FMLA Employer Response to Employee Request for FMLA form mentioned above serves as the employee's notice of rights, obligations, and what is expected of him. If you choose, you may download and use Form MH-381 from the U.S. Department of Labor Web site listed in Appendix C to notify the employee. You may also use the information on the form to develop your own form. Some of the information on the form may need to be altered to reflect state regulations.
Employees do not need to specifically ask for leave to qualify for FMLA. Distribute the FMLA paperwork packet to any employee who requests leave and gives a reason that may qualify as FMLA leave. An example of a leave that would not qualify is if an employee requests a personal leave of absence to spend the summer abroad, to help an adult child get settled into a new city for college, or to pursue a personal project or hobby.
If the employee is requesting FMLA leave for his own serious illness, he cannot be paid for both sick leave and disability leave concurrently; he will need to choose between the two. If he will be filing a disability claim, he will need a separate set of paperwork for that because FMLA does not generate disability payments.
Employees are expected to give at least a thirty-day advance notice when an FMLA leave is foreseeable. If the employee has no control over the start of the leave, such as in the event of an accident, sudden illness, or premature birth of a baby, you should be notified within forty-eight hours. Since the employee may not be in a condition to inform you in person, this notification may be made by telephone, e-mail, fax, or by a family member. Once you have been notified of the leave, prepare and mail an FMLA request form to the employee's home and a Certification of Health Care Provider form. Even if the leave is not due to the employee's own serious illness, the form is needed to confirm that a family member has a qualifying event.
Certification of Health Care Provider
A Certification of Health Care Provider form (WH-380) may be found on the U.S. Department of Labor's Web site. The health care provider fills it out to confirm that there is a qualifying medical condition. It should include the date of onset of the condition and the expected recovery date. Ideally, as in the case of a thirty-day notice, the form will be filled out prior to the start of the leave. In the event of a sudden leave, the employee has fifteen days to return the completed form to you in order for the leave to be designated as FMLA. In all fairness to the employee, forward this form to him as soon as possible so that he has a chance to get it back to you before the fifteen-day deadline.
Most doctors work within large medical groups and there may be a central office that handles disability and FMLA paperwork. This could cause a delay in the completion, but office personnel should know that the employee needs it back within fifteen days. Mark your calendar fifteen days from the date you gave him the form. Notify him if you have not yet received it by that date. Some medical groups send the form directly to the employer, yet others send it back to the employee.
Most medical offices charge a fee to fill out FMLA paperwork. This fee is usually about $10. This expense belongs to the employee and should not be eligible for reimbursement. As the employer, you should receive the original document once it is completed. File it in the employee's medical file and give a copy to the employee.
The human resources department is sometimes the last to know about employee happenings. Train all supervisors and managers to inform you right away when an employee has an off-work note or a pending leave of absence. You can't get the paperwork started if you don't know that a leave is in the employee's future. If the reason you found out that an employee started an FMLA leave is because you noticed that he hasn't received a paycheck in two weeks, there is a problem to address. If this does happen, the employee cannot be penalized for not getting his paperwork in on time. He will still be eligible for the leave, just do what you can to get the paperwork started and completed as quickly as possible.
After the employee's request for FMLA and medical-certification forms have been received, determine if the leave is designated as FMLA. Send or give the employee a letter to advise him of the status of his request. A copy of a sample FMLA approval letter may be found in Appendix A. The letter should specifically state that the leave is designated as FMLA if it has been approved. Give him instructions for paying his usual medical-benefit premiums, if applicable, and the procedures for returning early from the leave or asking for an extension. Keep a copy of the letter in the employee's medical file. If the leave is due to a family member's serious illness, correspondence should still be kept in the medical file.