The Department of Labor’s new Family and Medical Leave regulations take effect January 16, 2009. A number of the new rules’ provisions will require employers to amend their FMLA policies, forms and procedures in order to remain in compliance with the law. The new rules require that employers with handbooks include a notice of employee FMLA rights and responsibilities. DOL provides a form notice (WH Publication 1420), but most employers choose a more thorough FMLA policy in order to take advantage of several options provided under the Act.
For employers without handbooks, employees must be given a notice of FMLA rights at the time of hiring. A proposal to require annual redistribution of the policy was excluded from the final regulations.
Many of the changes to employers’ FMLA policies will deal with military family leave. The policies will need to include reservist activation exigency leave, and time to care for an injured or wounded family member in the armed services as qualifying FMLA reasons. For military care leave, the maximum period for leave in the policy needs to be extended from 12 to 26 weeks.
Other changes to the policy include new timeframes for returning incomplete medical certification forms, as well as provisions for the employer directly contacting the employee’s healthcare provider to seek clarification of medical certification information provided.
Changes to the FMLA policy should be completed and distributed to employees prior to the January 16, 2009 effective date of the new rules.