FMLA is the Family and Medical Leave Act. It was signed into law in 1993. Its primary purpose is to ensure that employees can hold their jobs through qualified medical or family leave.

Basically, it’s an insurance policy against personal emergencies that take you away from work.

FMLA is an important part of our national work infrastructure and gives employees peace of mind.

FMLA provides employees with a remarkable benefit, but there are conditions. It’s important to educate your employees on the features and benefits of FMLA. It is also important to communicate eligibility requirements and company policy and procedures.

Your employee handbook is the best way to communicate this information.

An online document management system is the best way to distribute your employee handbook. More on that later…

Preventing Problems With Your Employee Handbook

To begin, let’s review a handful of the problems your company could experience related to FMLA:

Company Policy: one of the biggest mistakes a company can make is in not having a company policy for FMLA procedure.

Companies have several options for FMLA adoption. Some options are better than others depending on your type of company.

Having a company policy in place allows you to manage the terms of FMLA. An established company policy allows everyone to be on the same page with expectations.

Your employee handbook is where this policy should be established.

Leave Alternatives: In some cases, employers can offer light-duty work instead of FMLA leave.

Light-duty work can be a viable alternative to full leave. If an employee can’t perform regular work but is willing to take on light-duty, there could be a win-win. The employee continues to work where they can, and the employer keeps the staffing resources.

As an employer, you can offer this alternative to your employees. However, if an employee prefers the time off for a qualifying condition, the employer must honor the FMLA request.

This is a policy that can be outlined in your employee handbook. Be sure to clarify what kinds of jobs will qualify as light-duty. Clarify, too, that this practice is optional, and that employees have a right to take the time off under FMLA.

Official Reporting: It’s important for managers to know that they must report FMLA leave immediately. If leave is unreported for any period of time, it may actually delay the beginning of the leave.

This kind of mistake can extend the time an employee is away from work and creates additional liability for the company.

Inform your managers that FMLA leave must be reported immediately. Communicate this to your employees, also, as a matter of policy and procedure.

Your employee handbook should have a section dedicated to your reporting policy. This will help to ensure reporting gets done in a timely manner. This is a common problem that can be avoided with a simple entry in your employee handbook.

More importantly, you need to be able to confirm that your managers have read the policy. Do this with a document management system that tracks employee engagement.

Wrong Coverage: Another common mistake with FMLA is when employers allow unqualified leave. If unqualified leave is granted under FMLA, and then a qualified leave is rejected because time has been used, the employer could face penalties.

Again, an explanatory entry in your employee handbook can make all the difference. When employees understand the qualifications, they are less likely to make requests that don’t comply. You won’t have to reject requests and expectations will be met.

FMLA Leave Time Tracking: Many companies fail to accurately record FMLA leave time. In these cases, a dispute can develop over qualifications. Tracking time off is critical in meeting compliance requirements.

Make sure your employee handbook includes policy and procedures for managers and employees. Add policies that require proper reporting and recording of dates and times. Add these sections of your employee handbook to your required reading and track employee engagement. Make sure your employees are reading the handbook.

Abuse: Make sure your employee handbook discusses FMLA abuse. A statement regarding company policy regarding abuse and subsequent penalties can be a strong deterrent. Make sure, too, that if abuse does occur, that appropriate action is taken.

Nothing caused a mutiny as fast as lax corporate action. If an employee feels they got away with some kind of abuse, rest assured others will try, too. Make abuse an important part of your company employee handbook, and stick to it.

Consistent treatment regarding abuse of any system will help strengthen company standing in any legal matter.

Make Sure Employees Are Reading Their Employee Handbook

There isn’t much sense in having an employee handbook if you can’t track employee engagement. Making sure your employees are reading the policies and procedures is easy with a document management system.

Document management can help you publish, distribute, and track your employee handbook.

With document management, you can give each employee exclusive access to the employee handbook. You can also track their engagement by chapter or section. That way you can confirm their acknowledgment of any specific policy.

Your liability goes down when you can confirm that employees have read their handbook. You can even place confirming quizzes at the end of each section to quantify their understanding of a given policy.

When you can assure that employees have read their handbook, your liability will go down. Employee engagement also goes up.

As more employees demonstrate an understanding of company policy, your workforce will be better prepared to focus on company progress.