How to Combat FMLA Abuse

Last Updated Sep 11, 2007 6:58 PM EDT

absenteeism.jpgSometimes life interferes with work, and the Family and Medical Leave Act supports that sentiment -- allowing workers extended, unpaid time off for childbirth, adoptions, and serious illnesses in the family. The law has allowed millions of people to take care of themselves and their loved ones, but it hasn't come without a price. Forbes notes:
The Family and Medical Leave Act has become the single largest source of uncontrolled absences and, thus, the single largest source of all the costs those absences create: missed deadlines, late shipments, lost business, temporary help and overworked staff.
Unfortunately, where there are good intentions, there are people looking to abuse them. The largest managerial nightmare: Abuse of the "unscheduled intermittent leave" provision. This is supposed to allow people with chronic illnesses to leave occasionally when medically necessary, but the consequence of such freedom seems to be decreased accountability. Workers can essentially come and go as they please -- dumping work on coworkers, missing deadlines, reducing the company's overall productivity, and decreasing morale.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce compiled some companies' reactions to FMLA and the challenges its presented to business-as-usual. You may relate to the frustrations (kind of like your hands are tied) but you're not completely at the mercy of the law. HR.BLR, a site for human resources issues, offers 12 ways to curb FMLA abuse (the first few listed below):

  1. Calculate FMLA leave using a "rolling" 12 month period. Measuring FMLA using this method (looking back 1 year and determining how much FMLA leave an employer has already used) avoids the potential abuse of employees "doubling."
  2. Require employees use all paid leave prior to taking unpaid FMLA . Employees are less likely to abuse FMLA if the have to burn up their vacation to do so.Likewise employers can count on-the-job injuries, which qualify, toward FMLA, also limiting the number of days available for potential abuse.
  3. Require medical certifications to be returned within 15 days. An employer who does this in writing, explaining the penalties for not doing so, may take action--including delaying the leave--toward employees who fail to follow the rules.
(Absenteeism Image by Robin Hutton)