… the HR Minion. Because even minions have opinions. And giggles.

Guest Blogger: FMLA Training in the New Year

maternity-leave

Today, I have a special surprise for all you darling readers out there! The wonderful Ben Eubanks asked me a couple weeks back to participate in a student-blogger mentorship and I was more than happy to help out. If there is one thing I have loved about the HR blogging community is how welcoming it was for me, so how could I be anything else but welcoming in return? And I hope you all are welcoming as well! So for the first time ever, please let me introduce Lori and her inaugural post!

Most leave applications processed under FMLA goes smoothly. The baby is born, the surgery is a success, the treatment ends, and the employee returns to the workplace to do his or her job. However, it’s the other FMLA scenarios that make our phones ring off the hook.

The calls about an intermittent leave that never ends, chronic abuse of protected leave, or the gray area between protected leaves and reasonable accommodations.

As HR Professionals, we can do ourselves a big favor beforehand by ensuring that our managers are knowledgeable and adequately trained with regard to FMLA. That IS the responsibility of HR, to ensure managers as well as newly promoted from within and new hire managers understand how to administer FMLA policies and treat employees with dignity.

What can we do then to ensure both compliance and dignity in the process? Well, for example, even providing all managers a basic FMLA PowerPoint presentation coupled with your companies policies can go a long way towards preparing your managers. Just be sure to follow up periodically with more in depth presentations as well as focusing on helping managers communicate effectively with employees who qualify or may qualify for FMLA.

When our managers are adequately trained it provides positive boundaries; boundaries which ensure employees are treated fairly with dignity and respect. An informed management team stabilizes the workplace, reduces uncertainty, perceptions of unfairness, and lowers employee stress during a time that they need to focus on healing.

Another positive aspect of a properly trained and informed management team is a significant reduction in the potential for lawsuits from employees who feel that they have been wronged or taken advantage of. Training also allows managers to do what is right in the eyes of the law instead of making wrong steps that may land the company or organization in hot water.

Let’s say you have an employee out of work due to the birth of a child. But when the client seems upset due to the employee being out so long the manager tells the employee to return to work or provide additional medical documentation to support her continued absence. However, her manager had also advised against the employee applying for FMLA as doing so would leave a supposed “black mark” on her employment record.

Unfortunately, now both the employee and the company are in a precarious position. The employee is without the protections provided by FMLA, and the the manager has illegally interfered with the employee’s rights. But all this could have been prevented with proper manager training and communication.And hopefully, all of us HR Leave Administrators know to routinely reach out to those employees with protected/sensitive circumstances, not only to monitor and update their status but to gain valuable feedback as well. This is a huge area of opportunity that is overlooked in many companies.

As we head into a new year, an important HR goal should be to train our managers to be knowledgeable with regard to the basics of FMLA so they can help employees use it correctly, as well as keeping our companies on the right side of the law.

Lori Owensby, a first time blogger, has been in Human Resources field for the last 10 years in different capacities: recruiter, Human Resources Generalist, and Benefits Administrator. She has a Masters in Human Resources Management and is working toward her Certified Benefits Professional certification.

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