OPM issues final rules on family and medical leave

klunney@govexec.com

The Office of Personnel and Management Monday issued revisions to the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 that take effect June 7.

The act provided eligible federal employees with a total of 12 administrative work weeks of unpaid leave annually under the following conditions: birth of a child and care of a newborn; adoption or foster care duties; care of spouse, child, or parent with a serious health condition; or personal serious health condition.

OPM's revisions to the Family and Medical Leave Act include:

  • All federal employees are responsible for notifying their agencies prior to taking medical leave. Employees who are physically or mentally incapable of notifying their employers on the day of an emergency can retroactively invoke leave within 2 workdays after returning to work, if they include written medical documentation.
  • When possible, employees must provide at least 30 days notice before taking leave under the act. In emergencies, employees need to "provide notice within a reasonable period of time appropriate to the circumstances involved." However, OPM notes that even without notification, the leave cannot be denied or delayed: "Since the law and current regulations require notification of the need for FMLA leave and allow flexibility for emergency situations, no substantive changes were made in the final regulations."
  • Employees must submit medical certification of a serious health condition (pregnancy and prenatal care fall under the definition of a "serious health condition") no later than 15 calendar days after the date the agency requests it. Where circumstances are beyond the employee's control-if for example, a health care provider fails to complete the certification within the 15-day time frame-employees are granted another 15 days. If the employee fails to provide the appropriate documentation within 30 days, the time off will be counted as annual leave, sick leave or leave without pay.
  • Other than medical documentation, employees are not required to submit any additional evidence demonstrating a serious health condition. When an agency suspects employee fraud with respect to leave under the act, it can contact its inspector general office for further investigation.
  • Holidays and non-work days falling during the period of leave for the employee will not be counted toward the 12-week entitlement to family and medical leave.
  • Although employees can use their annual and sick leave on top of their FMLA leave-also known as "stacking" leave-OPM notes that annual leave is subject to the supervisor's approval, and suggests that supervisors and employees communicate with one another on the best course of action.

OPM is also working on regulations to allow employees to take up to 12 weeks of accrued paid sick leave for family needs.

The FMLA regulatory changes appeared in the May 8 Federal Register. For more information, send an e-mail to payleave@opm.gov.

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