New FMLA Military Provisions Raise Questions Among HR Professionals

NEENAH, Wis.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Few statutory changes have triggered as many questions as the recent National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) signed by President Bush on January 28, 2008, which included provisions for two new types of leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) in support of military personnel. How has the FMLA changed? When do the provisions go into effect? What do the changes mean to my organization?

Darlene M. Clabault, PHR, a human resources subject matter expert with J. J. Keller & Associates, Inc., the nations leading provider of risk and regulatory management, says her company has fielded hundreds of questions. I see this as a good thing, comments Clabault. Employers are engaged. They want to follow the mandated provisions, and they want to do what is best for their employees. Fielding all the calls and emails led Clabault to develop an extensive list of frequently asked questions. Below are answers to just a few:

#1: What has changed with the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA)?

To state it as simply as possible, the provisions provide two new reasons to request time off under the FMLA, explains Clabault. She continues to explain that the first reason, or type of leave, allows eligible employees up to 26 weeks of job protected leave to care for a family member who sustained an injury or illness in the line of military duty. The second type of leave allows employees to take up to 12 weeks off when a family member is on, or is called to, active duty.

#2: Are these new FMLA provisions in effect now?

According to Clabault, the leave to care for an injured or ill servicemember went into effect the day it was signed. She states, Even though many of the details have not been worked out, employers are being asked to work in good faith with regards to such leave requests. The leave allowed when a family member is on, or called to active duty will not become effective until dictated by the final Department of Labor (DOL) regulations. Clabault does caution, however, that employers are being encouraged to provide leave for this reason as well.

#3: What should employers be doing now besides allowing this type of leave?

Clabault suggests that employers review and update their FMLA policy to reflect the changes. You may want to also review your employee handbook and FMLA-related forms, continues Clabault. Historically, these items include a list of the reasons for leave that can be updated to add the new provisions. She says that another necessary action is to train supervisors and managers on the provisions. Denying an eligible employee leave under these new provisions out of ignorance would not fare well in court, Clabault adds.

More detailed answers to these questions and many others regarding the new FMLA provisions can be found at