Changes to the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) Come Into Effect In Employment Law

What is the Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”)?

At the time that it was made, this act was a major reform which entitled people holding jobs with eligible employers to have leave which would be unpaid but meant that their job would remain there when they got back so long as the leave was taken for a personal reason relating to family or medical circumstances. The worker cannot be denied access to group health insurance coverage for taking this leave and they may have up to 12 weeks of this type of leave every year for a newborn, to care for their partner or if any member of their family is in the military. If any member of their family is injured in the military service, 26 weeks of unpaid leave is available.

What are some of the recent updates?

Recently, the government has amended the legislation to expand the available benefits for families of military members and airline flight crew. Also, research performed by the federal government agency responsible for the administration of this act has found that the compliance burden on employers appears to be reported as being minimal and that employees report that the reform has had a positive impact on their ability to balance their lives adequately. It is speculated that the reform has on average increased the well being of many employees and therefore their productivity and sense of fulfillment in their work.

Some of the updates to the legislation have included statements as to the interpretation of where certain definitions apply such as the definition of a son or daughter to include people over the age of 18 that need constant care. Also, interpretive guidance on the nature of a son or daughter has been provided stating that the relationship of son or daughter is not limited to the biological one and adoptive as well as step relationships, if proven, can be recognised as relationships for the purpose of the application of this piece of legislation.

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