What are the requirements for FMLA? More importantly, does FMLA apply to small businesses? 

As a small business owner, it is important to educate yourself about FMLA requirements for employers. If you have 50 or more employees, there is an excellent chance that this act applies to you. This act is enforced by the United States Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division, so violators can face a lawsuit and penalties if it isn’t followed. (If you have less than 50 employees, this act doesn’t apply to you, however, some states have similar family and medical leave laws that can apply to smaller businesses.)

What Are the Requirements for FMLA for Employers? 

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) was created in 1993. It states that employers must follow the FMLA if they have employed at least 50 workers for 20 weeks during the last year. If employees are covered by the FMLA, they may be given up to 12 weeks of unpaid time off to address physical and mental illnesses or the arrival of a child into their family. 

This act was originally developed so that employees wouldn’t have to decide between caring for a loved one and quitting their jobs. While states have additional rules, the FMLA doesn’t require employers to provide paid leave. If you do offer paid sick leave or vacation time, you can require your employees to use their paid time off when they use their FMLA leave. 

The main worker benefit guaranteed by FMLA is job protection. Employers simply have to make sure that the employee’s job remains open for them until they return from their leave. If it is impossible to keep that job open, employers must provide the worker with a job that is substantially the same.  

The secondary benefit of FMLA is health care. While employees have to take over the employer’s share of the premium, the FMLA requires employers to keep employees and their families on the same health plans during FMLA leave. 

As an employer, you should also learn more about how employee requests must be handled. If an employee requests FMLA leave, you are allowed to ask for information from their medical provider. Then, you must give the employee at least 15 calendar days to answer your questions. 

The Best Checklist for FMLA Requirements for Employers

After learning about the FMLA requirements for employers, the next step is making sure you comply with all of the rules. To stay in compliance, your workplace should use the following FMLA checklist. 

  • FMLA Posters: You must display a general notice about the FMLA in a visible location. 
  • Eligibility Notices: An eligibility notice must be given to employees. It shows how much FMLA leave the employee is eligible for. You must also tell employees why they aren’t eligible if they can’t get FMLA leave. 
  • Designation Notice: This notice is given to employees who are applying for FMLA leave. It tells the employee if their request was approved or not.  
  • Handbooks and Onboarding Materials: To make sure all of your employees are aware of their rights, you should incorporate FMLA notices and information into your HR handbooks or onboarding materials. To document that you have fulfilled your legal obligations, you can have employees sign or initial that they have completed their FMLA training.
  • Standardized Procedures: You want each employee to be treated the same way when they apply for FMLA leave. Ideally, your workplace should have a standardized list of procedures that your managers and HR team can use to determine if someone is eligible for FMLA. 
  • Certification of Health Care Provider: You can ask your employees to get a medical provider’s certification that they need FMLA for a serious illness. 
  • Return-to-Work Certification: If an employee uses FMLA for a medical reason, you can require them to get their medical provider’s approval to return to work. 
  • Benefit Premiums: As a part of your FMLA checklist, you can ask employees to determine if they want their benefits to keep going. If they do, you can make arrangements for them to pay their premiums.  
  • Paid Leave Options: Workplaces can require employees to use their paid leave during FMLA leave. During the employee’s FMLA request, you can talk about the paid leave they have available and your policies on using it. 

To be eligible for paid leave, employees must work for your company for at least 12 months. During that time, they have to work at least 1,250 hours. This works out to just under 25 hours a week. Additionally, employees must also be applying for FMLA leave for a covered reason, such as a physical or mental illness.

When dealing with exempt and salaried employees, it is important to exercise caution when calculating hours. Unless you are able to prove that the employee worked less than 1,250 hours in the last year, it is generally better to side in the employee’s favor and provide them with FMLA leave.    

Does FMLA Apply to Small Business Owners?

Does FMLA apply to small business owners in the United States? For the most part, the answer to this question is yes. Unless you are a very small business, you will be bound by FMLA rules. 

The FMLA applies to any business owner who has at least 50 employees for 20 weeks a year or more. Additionally, these 50 employees must be located within a 75-mile radius. 

When the FMLA was created, the 75-mile rule and number of employees were set up to prevent this act from being too onerous for small businesses. If you only have 10 employees, it can really harm your business if you lose one of them for 12 weeks. Because of this, the FMLA requirements for employers only apply to businesses that are over a certain size. 

Can You Refuse FMLA Requests From Your Employees? 

While it is possible to deny FMLA requests, you are only allowed to deny an employee’s request for valid reasons. For example, you can turn down the request if the employee gave improper notice or provided an invalid leave reason. You can also deny FMLA leave if your workplace doesn’t fit the criteria and size for using the FMLA. 

However, it is against the law to deny FMLA for an FMLA-covered reason. Because FMLA lawsuits can be costly, it is important to err on the side of caution. To stay in compliance, many workplaces create FMLA checklists and HR procedures so that each employee application goes through the same approval process. 

How to Get Help Incorporating FMLA Rules Into Your Small Business

What are the requirements for FMLA? Does FMLA apply to small business owners? At its heart, the FMLA requires employers to hold an employee’s job and keep their healthcare going while they are on unpaid leave. It applies to small and large employees. As long as you have more than 50 employees, you will most likely be required to meet FMLA requirements. 

In addition to FMLA rules, you may have specific paid leave laws in your state. Because these rules and requirements can vary significantly from one state to another, it is important to receive professional assistance in determining your leave requirements. To get help from experienced HR and paid leave professionals, contact Asure today. 


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