Nonprofits and other mission-driven organizations are known for having to meet their goals on sometimes threadbare budgets, limited team sizes, and short timelines. This means any change to the organizational structure, such as an employee taking leave, needs to be properly accounted for by your HR team. One of the most common forms of leave involves the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which applies to pregnant employees and their immediate family members. Understanding both the scope and details of this federal legislation enables your HR team and employees to take leave in a way that is beneficial to them without being overly disruptive to your organization’s mission.
To help your team, we’ve created this breakdown of all the important details and requirements related to FMLA leave.
What is the FMLA?
The FMLA guarantees employees 12 weeks of unpaid leave to care for a newborn child, adopted child, or foster child. Note that in some states this law has been expanded to include more leave or paid leave. It applies only to immediate family members: pregnant employees and their spouses.
Who qualifies for FMLA leave?
Private sector employers are governed by the “50/75 rule,” which stipulates that they only have to provide leave if they have 50 or more employees who work within a 75-mile radius. In some states, this threshold has been lowered, sometimes as low as 10 employees (Vermont).
All public sector employers at all federal, state, city, county, or special district levels must provide FMLA leave, no matter how many employees they have. This also applies to public and private elementary and secondary schools, irrespective of the number of employees.
Any employee who has worked for a qualifying organization for one year and has worked at least 1,250 hours in one year for that organization qualifies.
A pregnant employee can take FMLA leave to go to appointments related to the pregnancy and to receive care for any medical condition that arises as a result of the pregnancy. Spouses can take 12 weeks of caregiving leave after childbirth and can also use the leave to assist with any medical appointments related to the pregnancy or to provide care for their pregnant partner.
How do employees ask for leave?
Companies that meet the above qualifications are required to provide a notification to their employees of their right to take FMLA leave. This typically takes the form of a written notice posted in the workplace, along with a similar notice and explanation of benefits in the employee handbook or list of workplace policies.
Employees must provide their employers with notice of a need to take FMLA leave at least 30 days before the leave, when possible. Some circumstances, such as a sudden medical emergency, do not allow for this period but still may qualify for FMLA leave.
The employer then has 5 days to make an eligibility determination and provide this to the employee, notifying them of whether they qualify for FMLA leave based on the standards listed above.
Depending on the nature of the leave requested, the employer may then ask for a medical certification that verifies the employee’s need to take leave. For pregnancy, this typically comes in the form of a letter from a healthcare provider. For a spouse looking to take time off following the birth of their child, they could use a birth certification or something similar.
How does FMLA work?
For pregnant employees seeking time off to go to appointments, receive prenatal care, or get treatment for a pregnancy-related medical emergency, they are permitted to use what is called “intermittent leave.” For example, your pregnant employee may ask for a half day off to get a sonogram. Provided you are granted enough notice, they can take this time off and count it against the 12 weeks of leave they are granted.
You have a right to request proof of their appointment or need for this care if you feel it is necessary. You can work with your employee to schedule these predictable appointments in advance and come up with a timeframe for what you consider a reasonable amount of notice for any unplanned leave.
A family member of a pregnant person or someone who has recently given birth has a right to take leave to assist with any appointments or issues related to the pregnancy. “Bonding leave” is where a new parent takes time off to spend time with their child. Once you have approved this leave, the parent may use their 12 weeks nonconsecutively. For example, a new parent may take some time off for the birth and the period after, return to work, then take more leave once their spouse returns to work.
As stated above, this leave can be taken concurrently with any local or state provisions on paid family leave.
FMLA for foster parents or adoptions
Although they may not involve the same scheduled medical appointments, an employee who is acting as a foster parent or looking to adopt a child can also apply for FMLA leave. These include pre-adoption situations, such as a counseling session, appearing in court, consultation with a lawyer or doctor, or traveling to adopt the child.
Foster care, where a child is removed from parental custody and placed with a foster parent, is also subject to FMLA leave, even if it is with multiple foster children throughout the years. If your employee is a foster parent, they are entitled to leave in both temporary and permanent foster care situations.
We can help you ensure your HR team is prepared
Everyone who works at 501(c) Services is deeply knowledgeable about the unique challenge of staffing and providing for your nonprofit organization. As long-time nonprofit experts, we can partner with your HR team to ensure that they can use every resource possible while complying with federal, state, and local labor laws. If you’d like to learn more about us, get in touch.
501(c) Services has more than 40 years of experience helping nonprofits with unemployment outsourcing, reimbursing, and HR services. Two of our most popular programs are the 501(c) Agencies Trust and 501(c) HR Services. We understand the importance of compliance and accuracy, and we are committed to providing our clients with customized plans that fit their needs.
Contact us today to see if your organization could benefit from our services.
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The information contained in this article is not a substitute for legal advice or counsel and has been pulled from multiple sources.