Exploring Attendance Policies Not Eligible for FMLA

How do you handle an employee who needs medical leave but doesn’t qualify for FMLA? The employee may just be subject to your attendance policy. If so, it’s important to look at the details of your attendance policy to make sure that it doesn’t conflict with your other leave of absence policies and doesn’t drive the wrong behavior.

Here are some things to think about when building and administering your attendance policy.

1. What happens with multi-day absences? Does the employee get a full occurrence for each day they are out for the same illness or reason? If so, it may be encouraging them to either return to work when they are still sick or to stay out longer than they need to just to qualify for FMLA (more than 3 consecutive days).

We recommend an attendance policy that reduces the occurrences after the first day. For example, the first day they would receive 1 occurrence, days 2 and 3 they would receive .5 occurrences each, and on the 4th day they become eligible for FMLA or a personal leave.

2. Are the occurrence maximums reasonable? It’s important to find a balance between allowing too many occurrences and not enough. Even your high-performing, dedicated employees will get sick or have car trouble once in a while. The attendance policy should allow employees to feel like they have the ability to take care of themselves and their personal business when these types of situations arise without feeling like they will have a black mark on their record. But it should also set a reasonable limit to the amount of unplanned absences. You’ll need to look at your own environment and culture to determine what’s reasonable, but we recommend anywhere between nine and 12 occurrences in a rolling 12-month period.

3. Is the perfect attendance policy encouraging FMLA cases? When an employee is approved for time off under FMLA there can be no penalty against them for those absences. That means that if they miss work under FMLA they are still eligible for the same benefits as other employees, including a perfect attendance award.

It won’t take long for your other employees to realize that the key to missing work and still getting your perfect attendance bonus is FMLA. And all the sudden you have a run of FMLA applications and protected absences.

What’s the solution? Leave Solutions recommends removing all perfect attendance bonuses, rewards, and recognition programs. Not only do they encourage FMLA usage, but we believe they also send the wrong message about work/life balance and taking care of yourself when you need to take a sick day.  

Check out our other articles about what to do when an employee isn’t eligible for FMLA:

     Not Eligible for FMLA? Exploring Personal Leave Policies

     Not Eligible for FMLA? Exploring ADA Accommodations

Contact Leave Solutions today to find out more about how we can help you build policies and practices that ease the pain of leave administration.

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