In a previous post about the Family & Medical Leave Act, we noted that covered employers must grant eligible employees up to a total of 12 work weeks of unpaid leave during a 12-month period (the “12” in the title). There are 4 (yup, the title again) methods for determining that 12-month period. The constant, regardless of the method chosen, is that the method used must, must, must be communicated to employees.
4 Methods for Determining the 12-Month Period Under FMLA
The following are the four methods for determining the 12-month period:
- The calendar year.
- Any manner of fixed “year” period, such as a year beginning on an employee’s anniversary date.
- A 12-month period beginning with the first date upon which an employee takes FMLA leave.
- A “rolling” 12-month period measured backward from the first date upon which an employee takes FMLA leave.
Which Method is the Best for Employers?
While option 4 is the most advantageous option to employers (there is no way for an employee to use more than 12 workweeks of leave in one calendar year), it is also unnecessarily complex. For this reason, the easiest for everyone to follow (and the one we generally suggest) is option 3 (Huzzah! It all makes sense now….kinda.), where the 12-month period begins with the first date upon which an employee takes the leave under the Family & Medical Leave Act. It’s easy for employees to track because they know they have a calendar year from the first date of leave. It’s also easy for employers to track, as the calculation is extremely straightforward, lessening the potential for confusion.
Regardless of the method chosen, the most important takeaways are that it has to be applied evenly and consistently and employees must be made aware of the method of calculation. If not, confusion, and very possibly litigation, will follow.
Note: Once an employer picks a means of determining the period, it can still be changed, but an employer has to provide 60 days’ notice of that change and it cannot adversely impact the leave of any eligible employees.
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