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Regulation and Compliance > Federal Regulation

Execs Eye New Military FMLA Rules

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Benefits and human resources managers want to know more about new federal leave provisions that will affect the relatives of military personnel.

The new provisions are part of the H.R. 4986, the National Defense Authorization Act, which was signed into law in January.

One provision, which took effect immediately, expands the federal Family and Medical Leave Act to provide up to 26 work weeks of FMLA leave for employees who are the “spouse, son, daughter, parent or next of kin” of a military servicemember who “is undergoing medical treatment, recuperation or therapy, is otherwise in outpatient status, or is otherwise on the temporary disability retired list for a serious injury or illness” sustained in active duty.

The other provision, which will take effect when regulations are issued, “would allow employees to take FMLA leave for “any qualifying exigency (as the secretary [of Labor] shall, by regulation, determine] arising out of the fact that the spouse, or a son, daughter or parent of the employee is on active duty {or has been notified of an impending call or order to active duty} in the Armed Forces in support of a contingency operation.”

WorldatWork, Scottsdale, Ariz., a group that represents about 12,100 compensation, benefits and human resources executives at large companies, recently conducted an informal e-mail survey of its members about the FMLA.

Some members complained about the FMLA provision that permits employees at some employers to take “intermittent” FMLA leave in increments of as little as a few minutes.

About 32% of the 450 WorldatWork members who participated in the survey said they would like the minimum FMLA leave increment to increase to at least a few hours, and 57% said they would like to see a stricter definition of the term “serious illness.”

Only 12% of the participants recommended eliminating use of intermittent leave entirely, and 59% said they oppose the idea of eliminating the intermittent leave option.

About 56% of the survey participants would like to expand the FMLA, by letting employees take FMLA leave to care for children over age 18 who have serious health problems but are not disabled.

When asked about the new military servicemember support provisions, participants said they would like a clear definition of “next of kin” and a clear definition of “qualifying exigency.”

The participants also would like to have the right to request to see a copy of the “called to active duty” military orders and proof of relationship, and they would like to know whether loved ones of servicemembers who serve on active duty for more than 12 months would be entitled to get a new 12-week allotment of military support leave each year.

Similarly, WorldatWork survey participants asked whether employees would be entitled both to 12 weeks of ordinary FMLA leave and 26 weeks of leave to care for a sick or injured servicemember within the same 12-month period.


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