3 Ways You Can Take the Pain Out of FMLA Rules

Are you crystal clear on FMLA rules?

According to Employers Resource Association, Family Medical and Leave Act rules are the top concern of HR and benefits professionals based on the 8,000 calls to its hotline in 2011. An HR professional, for instance, might struggle with answering, “Can a father with a newborn child take time away, under the law?” or “How can a daughter with an ailing mother go part-time under FMLA?”

Honestly, it’s a rare HR professional who knows the answers by heart. I typically half remember these kinds of legal answers but desperately want to fact check myself before sounding the fool. Where does that leave employees? Hands thrown up in surrender, long before they even open up their SPD (summary plan description)?

Fix the problem for good

Except for pregnancy, there are few major health events that are happy. To help employees ride out an emotional time, make FMLA information clear, accessible and compelling. A few hints:

  • Explain the law in an employee-friendly format. Life event-type scenarios (e.g., “I have an ailing parent”) and simple, clear checklists work well. If you use FAQs, make sure they are helpful and addressing the top issues — not a dumping ground of details and legal jargon.
  • Put it online. A benefits website on the Internet, where employees are accustomed to finding information, is always our recommendation. You can add a new section for time off if you don’t already have one, or beef up the current references to FMLA. If you must rely on your SPD as the final resting place for complete details, be sure it is easy to read and points people to key information.
  • Advertise the resource. However you offer quick tips about benefits to your employees — Twitter, blogs, Internet banner ads — remind employees about typical scenarios where FMLA might apply.

Find other problems to fix!

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Call centers are pure gold — not just because they gracefully handle emotional calls from employees and family members. The Employers Resource Association findings remind us that our call center colleagues know what the tough questions are.

February can be a quiet time. Go ahead — schedule a lunch with several call center reps and listen up!