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How FMLA Ties into Employee Attendance

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) allows eligible employees to take unpaid, job-protected leave for specified family and medical reasons. Eligible employees may take up to 12 workweeks of leave during any 12-month period for certain family and medical reasons and up to 26 workweeks of leave during a single 12-month period for military caregiver leave.

Although it was designed to do three main things – help employees to balance the pressures of the workplace with the needs of their families, support the economic security of families and support national interests in protecting the integrity of families – it is also widely misused among employees, which can heavily affect employee attendance and morale.

When an employee abuses FMLA leave, and does so to simply prolong personal time off, it can easily frustrate co-workers, creating a negative atmosphere in the workplace.  Employers are forced to address the issue of FMLA misuse because of how negatively it impacts employee morale, and also because it can increase costs of the company due to paying other employees overtime for compensating in place of the casually absent employees.

The FMLA gives employers a significant amount of rights to investigate and question an employee's reasons for needing a leave of absence, and to monitor attendance patterns of alleged leave misuse to be able to confirm that the employee's leave is legitimate and reasonable.

The FMLA does not intervene or replace an employer’s separate attendance policy, nor does it affect an employer’s obligation to provide even greater leave rights under a collective-bargaining settlement or employment benefits plan. Therefore, employers can help boost employee morale by disciplining those employees who violate the company’s attendance policy.

On the contrary, the FMLA could improve new employees’ attendance records because of the stipulations that are established for employees to even become eligible for FMLA leave. For employees to be eligible for FMLA leave, they must work a minimum of 1,250 hours for a covered employer throughout the course of at least one year at a single location, which provides an incentive to reach, at the very least, the minimum of required work hours.