Should HR Managers use a calendar year for counting employees’ limit on FMLA leave, or is there a better way? HR Daily Advisor editor Stephen Bruce looks at the options in this HR Compliance Corner video blog.

SB: This is Steve Bruce for the HR Daily Advisor. Today we have a question from Ralph M. in Michigan. He writes:

‘I just want to use a calendar year for counting employees’ 12-week limit on FMLA leave. Someone told me that’s not a good way to do it. Is that right?’

Ralph, many organizations do choose to use a calendar year because it’s simple, but there’s a major drawback. First, let’s talk about the options: There are four methods for calculating the FMLA year, and the DOL lets you choose which one to use. You do need to check your state law, though, because it may restrict your choices. The four methods are:

  • First, the calendar year, as you are suggesting;
  • Second, any other fixed 12-month period. That could be, for example, a fiscal year or year that begins with an employee’s anniversary date;
  • Third, a 12-month period, measured forward, that begins on the date an employee first starts the FMLA leave; or
  • Fourth, a "rolling" 12-month period, measured backward, from the date an employee last used any FMLA leave.

With the first three methods, once the year is fixed, it doesn’t change. With the fourth method, every time someone takes leave the year changes.

You can see that the advantage shared by the first three methods is that recordkeeping and administration are easier. Once fixed, the year doesn’t change. BUT, and here’s the disadvantage I was talking about, the first three methods allow ‘stacking’ of leave time. In other words, an employee could take 24 weeks of leave in a row; for example, the last 12 weeks of a calendar year and the first 12 weeks of the next calendar year. That stacking can’t happen under the fourth method. And that’s why many companies choose the rolling backwards method, even though is can be more difficult to administer.
So, knowing that, it’s up to you to make the best choice for your company.

Thanks for your question and good luck with all your HR challenges. This is Steve Bruce for the HR Daily Advisor.