Best Practices for HR Leaders

As an HR professional and legal counsel, I understand the challenges of managing Paid Family Leave (PFL) and Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) programs. These leave programs are essential for supporting employees during significant life events. Here’s how you can effectively manage these programs and support your workforce.

Understanding PFL and FMLA

  • Paid Family Leave (PFL): PFL allows employees to take job-protected leave for family-related reasons, such as bonding with a new child, caring for a seriously ill family member, or managing family matters due to a military deployment. It ensures employees can attend to their family needs without the risk of losing their jobs.

  • Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA): FMLA provides job-protected leave for both family and medical reasons, including an employee’s own serious health condition. It covers a broader range of health-related issues than PFL, ensuring employees can take necessary time off to recover from their own illnesses or support family members.

Webinar Notes: Managing PFL & FMLA Leave

During an April 2024 webinar, I highlighted several critical aspects of managing PFL and FMLA:

  • Eligibility Requirements: Understanding who qualifies for PFL and FMLA is essential. Employees must meet specific criteria related to their employment duration and hours worked. Clarifying these requirements helps manage expectations and ensures only eligible employees apply for leave.

  • Leave Entitlements: Both PFL and FMLA provide distinct leave entitlements. While both programs currently offer up to twelve (12) weeks of leave during a rolling twelve (12) month period, they have differing eligibility criteria.  Most notably, an employer ascertains employees’ eligibility for FMLA, while the employer’s insurance carrier assesses PFL eligibility.  Tracking these entitlements accurately is vital for compliance and planning.

  • Intermittent Leave: Both programs permit intermittent leave, enabling employees to take leave in separate blocks rather than one continuous period. This flexibility is particularly beneficial for ongoing medical treatments or caregiving responsibilities.  PFL leave must be taken in full-day increments, but FMLA leave may be taken in minimum increments of one (1) hour.

  • Concurrent Leave: When employees qualify for both PFL and FMLA, these leaves may run concurrently. They may also run concurrently with other statutory or employer-sponsored leave programs.  Managing concurrent leave effectively minimizes disruption and helps ensure compliance with both state and federal regulations.

  • Documentation and Compliance: Proper documentation is crucial. This includes medical certifications, tracking leave usage, and maintaining accurate records. Robust documentation practices help ensure compliance and protect the organization from potential legal issues.

Practical Applications

Implementing effective PFL and FMLA management strategies can significantly benefit both the organization and its employees. Here are some actionable steps:

  • Develop Clear Policies: Establish comprehensive leave policies outlining the procedures for requesting and approving PFL and FMLA leave. Ensure these policies are accessible and communicated clearly to all employees and supervisors.

  • Training and Education: Provide training for HR staff, managers, and employees on the requirements and procedures for PFL and FMLA leave. This fosters a better understanding of leave rights and responsibilities across the organization.

  • Utilize Technology: Implement HR software to track leave requests, manage documentation, and monitor leave balances. Leveraging technology streamlines the leave management process and reduces administrative burdens.

  • Flexible Work Arrangements: Consider whether flexible work options to accommodate employees’ needs during their leave can provide a benefit to both parties. Remote work, adjusted schedules, and temporary job reassignments can help maintain productivity and support employees.

  • Regular Reviews: Conduct regular reviews of leave policies and procedures to ensure they remain up to date with any changes in state or federal regulations. This proactive approach helps maintain compliance and supports continuous improvement.

Benefits of Effective Leave Management

Properly managing PFL and FMLA leaves offers numerous benefits:

  • Employee Well-Being: Supporting employees during their leave helps ensure they can focus on their health or family responsibilities, leading to higher morale and job satisfaction.

  • Compliance: Adhering to PFL and FMLA regulations helps avoid legal issues and demonstrates the organization’s commitment to employee rights.

  • Business Continuity: Effective leave management minimizes disruptions and maintains productivity by ensuring adequate staffing levels.

  • Employer Branding: A strong commitment to employee well-being enhances the organization’s reputation as a desirable employer.

Addressing Challenges

Managing PFL and FMLA programs can present several challenges. Here are few common issues and solutions:

  • Communication Barriers: Regular updates on leave status and required documentation foster transparency. Ensure open communication channels between HR, managers, and employees.

  • Balancing Business Needs: Develop contingency plans to manage staffing levels during employees’ leave. Cross-training employees and hiring temporary staff can help bridge gaps.

  • Compliance Issues: Stay informed about changes in state and federal leave regulations. Regularly review and update leave policies to ensure compliance.

Let’s Get to Work…

Navigating PFL and FMLA leave programs is crucial for supporting employees and maintaining compliance. By implementing these strategies, HR leaders and management teams can effectively manage leave programs, support employee well-being, and ensure business continuity.

Let’s get to work…

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Check out the full webinar on YouTube!

About the Author: Lorisa LaRocca, Esq. – Owner of Spark HR Consulting and Chief Legal Counsel at TalentBridge

Lorisa LaRocca, Esq. Owner of Spark HR Consulting and Chief Legal Counsel at TalentBridge

Lorisa D. LaRocca, Esq., serves as Chief Legal Counsel at TalentBridge, where she oversees all legal matters and manages the expansion of TalentBridge’s HR consulting practice in partnership with Spark HR Consulting.

With over 20 years of experience, she previously worked at Woods Oviatt Gilman LLP, where she was a partner and chaired the labor and employment practice. Lorisa is also the founder of Spark HR Consulting, providing comprehensive HR services including policy development, workforce training, and DEI strategies.

Recognized in the 2022 “Best Lawyers in America” list, Lorisa holds a Juris Doctorate from SUNY Buffalo School of Law.