Q: How do I track FMLA leave?
A: After determining that a leave is covered by FMLA, you should begin tracking time against the 12-week entitlement. You'll track this time in whole-week increments if the need for leave is continuous. Each week missed will be counted as 1/12th of their total entitlement.
If the employee needs intermittent leave, or reduced hours, you'll need to determine how many hours they are entitled to in total and record the time they miss on an hour-by-hour basis. To do so, you would take the number of hours that an employee regularly works in a week and multiply it by 12. For instance, if an employee is regularly scheduled to work 40 hours per week, their 12-week FMLA entitlement would be 480 hours (40 x 12 = 480). If they worked 30 hours per week, their 12-week FMLA entitlement would be 360 hours (30 x 12 = 360). If their hours fluctuate, you should go back twelve months from the start of their leave and calculate their weekly average, then multiply that number by 12.
If an employee is missing time on an intermittent basis that has not been established ahead of time (e.g. they occasionally suffer from migraines versus having a standing appointment for chemotherapy each Tuesday), make sure they know that they need to notify you when they are taking time off for an FMLA-qualifying reason. This is necessary so that you can track that time (a benefit to you) and treat it as protected (a benefit to the employee).
If an employee says that they need to miss more time than is indicated on their current doctor's certification, you should request updated paperwork to cover additional time missed. Please note: even if you trust this employee, you might not trust the next, and you want to ensure you’re applying the same standards across the board to avoid claims of discrimination—particularly when a disability of some kind is already in play.
Watch our webinar on-demand, "Navigating Leaves of Absence and the FMLA," where we provide an overview of FMLA regulations and common issues — through employer best practices and the steps you need to take to properly manage leaves of absence.