You get the phone call in the middle of the night. Your son or daughter has been in a serious accident and is hospitalized in critical condition. After several day's they come home from the hospital with several broken bones and require your around the clock attention for the next eight to twelve weeks. You just got over a serious medical condition yourself which you acquired while on vacation and do not have any vacation time or sick time to take off. Do you have to quit your job? Can your employer terminate you for taking time off to be with your child? What options do you have? What can your employer do for you? Well, the answer lies in the Family and Medical Leave Act.

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) was passed in 1993 and allows employees to take unpaid leave for up to 12 workweeks in any 12 month period because of any of the following reasons: the birth or adoption of a child, for the care of a family member with a serious health condition, or because the employee's own serious health conditions makes the employee unable to perform the functions of her or her job. This paper will discuss the advantages and disadvantages to both the employer and the employee concerning this act. The current use of FMLA and management concerns over the FMLA will also be discussed. Employee Benefits & Disadvantages The FMLA benefits the employee by allowing an individual to take up to 12 workweeks off if their situation is one of the reasons covered under FMLA. Accumulated sick leave and vacation time can be used in conjunction with the FMLA period of absence, but once the pay benefits run out, the employer is not required to pay the employee for the rest of the time the employee is on the FMLA leave of absence. To be eligible to file for an FMLA leave, the employee must have been employed for 12 months or have worked at least 1, 250 hours for the employer.

The employee is also eligible for health care coverage while taking FMLA leave. In addition, upon return, the employee is entitled to the same position or an equivalent position with equivalent pay, benefits and working conditions upon return. (DOL) There are not a lot of known disadvantages to the employee covering FMLA. One of the few disadvantages is that unscheduled FMLA leave often causes other workers to pull the workload of those employees on FMLA leave. Employer Benefits & Disadvantages For an employer to be liable to honor the FMLA, they must employee more than 50 employees that live within 75 miles of the work site and at least 50 of the employees work 20 or more work-weeks in the current or preceding calendar year. The FMLA benefits the employer by allowing him or her to excuse his employees for medical conditions or family issues.

This benefits both the employer and employee in allowing them to both know that their can be a balance between the workplace and family life. (dol. gov) Some of the disadvantages that the employer faces are not being able to predict when employees will be taking FMLA leave, causing them to make last minute changes to work schedules and the understanding of what is considered to be a serious illness. A recent survey reported by Iom a, a leading business management organization, states that the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) found that 68% of organizations have experienced challenges in administering medical leave under the FMLA. These challenges include: o Tracking intermittent leave (51%) o Costs associated with lost productivity due to employees' absences (40%) o Unsure about the legitimacy of leave requests (36%) o Morale problems among employees asked to cover for absent employees (33%) o DOL regulations and guidance is contradictory and confusing (27%) (iom a. Payroll report) Current Use of FMLA The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) recently reported the findings from a study conducted on the usage of FMLA by the Washington, D.

C. based Employment Policy Foundation (EPF). Their estimate is that the FMLA cost employers approximately $21 billion in 2004. SHRM also reported the following statistics for on the use of FMLA in 2004: (HR Magazine) o 52% of workers took leave under the FMLA more than once (this was up from the 25% that was reported in the same study in 2000). o Average time frame for a FMLA leave was 10. 1 day so EPF's chief economist, Jane marie Mulvey and the author of the report stated that approximately half of all FMLA leave-takers "do not provide notice before the day the leave is taken " Currently, the FMLA is under review by the Department of Labor and revisions are expected any day now regarding the act.

It is unknown what these revisions will entail but as reported by Stephanie Armour in the USA TODAY article "Family, medical leave act at center of hot debate", some of the rumored changes are: classifying what is a serious illness, occasional time off and proving an illness. (USA TODAY) Armour reports that the most common problem with the FMLA is the definition of a serious illness. She states that "groups, such as the U. S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufactures, want a more precise description of what would qualify as a serious illness." (USA TODAY) Another issue reported by Armour is the use by some employees taking frequent small amounts of time off. She states that "Business leaders say some unscrupulous employees are using the intermittent time off for bogus reasons." Armour reports that some employers would like the opportunity to discuss the illness and time off with the doctor to see if it is legitimate.

(USA TODAY) FMLA is a wonderful benefit for the both the employee and the employer but requires the honesty and respect of the employee. At the present time if an employee decides to misuse the FMLA, the employer's hands are tied and they have to adjust their work load and or the schedules of other employees around the misbehaving employee.