Survey: Employee Abuse, Lack of Advance Notice and Leave Tracking Are Top FMLA Concerns

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<p><strong>Washington </strong><br />Human resource practitioners responding to a survey on the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) indicate a high level of support for most of the United States Department of Labor&rsquo;s proposed FMLA regulations. A total of 450 U.S.-based HR professionals participated in the survey conducted in February and March 2008 by WorldatWork, an association of human resource professionals from Fortune 500 and other leading organizations worldwide. <br /> <br />When WorldatWork last surveyed on FMLA practices in 2005, those results were cited throughout the regulations and used as supporting material for some of the proposed changes issued by the Department of Labor (DOL) in February. <br /> <br />WorldatWork is submitting a comment letter highlighting the results of its 2008 survey, &ldquo;FMLA Practices and Perspectives: Reactions to the Proposed FMLA Changes and New Military Provisions.&rdquo; <br /> <br />WorldatWork also commends the House Workforce Protections Subcommittee of the Committee on Education and Labor for holding a hearing titled, "The 15th Anniversary of the Family Medical Leave Act: Achievements and Next Steps." <br /><br />&ldquo;I applaud DOL&rsquo;s leadership in re-examining some of the regulatory provisions of FMLA," said Cara Welch, director of public policy for WorldatWork. &ldquo;Our members have frequently asked for guidance on how to implement and administer FMLA under the current rules. The proposed new regulations go a long way towards clarifying key issues.&rdquo;<br /> <br /><strong>Key Findings of the 2008 WorldatWork FMLA Survey</strong><br />Overall, total rewards professionals support the DOL&rsquo;s proposed regulations, as these will help ease the administrative burden of implementing a time-consuming and labor-intensive set of requirements.<br /> <br />Top concerns revolve around suspected employee abuse, lack of advance notice and tracking intermittent leave:<br /></p><ul><li><strong>Employee abuse: </strong>Suspected employee abuse is the No. 1 concern about intermittent FMLA leave among total rewards professionals. It is reported to cause extreme difficulty in 42 percent of organizations, greatly contributing to the widespread support of many of the DOL proposed changes that would allow employers to better manage these sometimes frequent but brief absences.</li><li><strong>Lack of advance notice: </strong>Forty-nine percent of intermittent FMLA absences are scheduled, but most intermittent leave users (81 percent) are providing no more than a 24-hour notice, and more than half give notice the day of the absence or even later. </li><li><strong>Leave tracking: </strong>While not a federal requirement per se, the need to track intermittent FMLA absences in order to comply with various provisions remains a considerable challenge for participating organizations. Good communication is key to successful FMLA tracking; communication breakdowns, not to mention inadequacies in tracking systems and software, often lead to increased difficulty in managing intermittent FMLA leave.</li></ul><p> <br />The top three &ldquo;serious health conditions&rdquo; cited for FMLA leave are: </p><ul><li>Cancer/chemotherapy = 68 percent</li><li>Eldercare/child-care issues = 47 percent</li><li>Migraines/headaches = 43 percent</li></ul><p> <br />Employers want clear definitions surrounding the military provisions. A large portion of survey respondents do not understand what is meant by &ldquo;exigency.&rdquo; A more understandable term would be helpful, since the term &ldquo;exigency&rdquo; is not intuitive for many total rewards practitioners.<br /> <br />In addition, the survey found that FMLA processes are consistent across organizations:<br /></p><ul><li>The rolling 12-month period, used by 71 percent of FMLA-eligible organizations, is the most popular method for determining the 12-month period. </li><li>Only 58 percent of organizations require use of paid leave when an employee takes an FMLA-qualifying leave; the remaining 40 percent allow use of paid leave. </li></ul> <br />&ldquo;Based on the survey results and our own experience, FMLA is working as intended &mdash; it provides job security for workers who need some time off at their own expense to handle major life events for themselves and their families,&rdquo; said Alison Avalos, a practice leader for WorldatWork who managed the survey research. &ldquo;Since FMLA was enacted 15 years ago, many workforce management strategies have been deployed for managing the unexpected, such as telework, cross training and flexible work options, so that employees can step in for one another and work can be done from anywhere, anytime.&rdquo;<br /> <br /><strong>About the Survey</strong><br />The 2008 WorldatWork &ldquo;FMLA Practices and Perspectives&rdquo; survey was conducted in February and March. Surveys were sent electronically to 12,080 WorldatWork members in the United States. A total of 450 responses were received (93 percent of responding organizations are eligible for FMLA).<br />

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