The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) of 1993 is celebrating 20 years of benefiting employees and frustrating employers. Although most employers agree with the basic tenants of the FMLA and giving workers protection while they manage urgent family issues it has been a labor of love to implement the regulation and maintain compliance.

Birthday CakeThis 20th birthday celebration is surrounded by two other noteworthy stories about FMLA (1) Revised regulations that take effect on March 8, 2013 and (2) The Department of Labor (DOL) releasing results of a survey Family and Medical Leave Act in 2012: Final Report.

The revised regulations implement two primary expansions within the FMLA related to eligible veterans and airline personnel and flight crews.

Beginning on March 8, 2013, eligible veterans will receive the same job? protected FMLA leave currently available to families of military service members. At the same time the revised regulations will enable more military families to qualify for a FMLA eligible absence when deployment occurs. The revised regulation also provides FMLA protection for airline flight crew employees who had difficulty meeting service requirements under prior regulations based on their unique schedules.

The DOL has provided revised posters as well as reference material related to the March 2013 changes. Here is a comparison document that highlights changes between 2008 and 2013.

At Spring Consulting Group we routinely assist our clients with difficult FMLA cases, providing direction on this complex regulation. Many employers have or plan to audit their FMLA program to ensure compliance and streamline processes through an outsourced model or more efficient insourced program.

Although employers have had 20 years to get their arms around the FMLA the ambiguity within the regulation makes consistency difficult at times. Given this it was a bit surprising when the DOL related a report indicating that FMLA is making a positive impact on workers’ lives without imposing a burden on employers. The survey data suggest that most employers and employees find it easy to comply with the law which is surprising given the feedback from the market overall has been that absences linked to FMLA – especially intermittent absences – are very difficult to manage.

Data from the DOL survey indicated that 85% of employer said complying with FMLA is very easy, somewhat easy or has no noticeable effect. Data from employees yielded that approximately 13% reported taking leave for a FMLA reason in the past 12 months with only 24% being for intermittent leave.

Although the data changes when evaluating only larger employers it still highlights a sunnier view of the FMLA and absence related to this regulation than what industry experts experience.

Detailed data related to the survey as well as a technical report is available within the DOL website. The FMLA Survey page can be found here.

Image Credit: landhere

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Teri Weber

Teri Weber

Partner at Spring Consulting Group, LLC
Teri Weber, ACI is a Senior Vice President with Spring Consulting Group. She has over 10 years of experience in health and welfare plan strategy, design, pricing, and implementation. She also works with absence management programs, including disability, family medical leave and leave of absence tracking. Her areas of expertise have allowed her to work with diverse employers and vendors to streamline processes and programs to meet the needs of insurers, administrators, employers and employees. Teri is on the Board for the New England Employee Benefits Council (NEEBC) and recently served as lead editor for the Disability Management Employer Coalition’s (DMEC) Return to Work Program Manual. Prior to joining Spring, Teri worked with Watson Wyatt, Buck Consultants and AON Consulting. In addition she was an Account Manager with Health Direct, Inc. Teri earned a BS at the University of Connecticut and a MBA at the University of Massachusetts. She holds an ACI designation and is a licensed broker in the states of MA and CT.