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Managers already have enough on their plates. They likely don’t want to spend extra hours on HR training, especially the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).

They do, however, play a big role in helping your company avoid costly FMLA claims. Instead of plowing through pages of FMLA regulations, focus manager training on two areas of the law that would give you the most bang for your buck. These two FMLA areas include:

  1. FMLA notice. Teach managers to recognize an employee’s notice of the need for leave, and
  2. Qualifying reasons. Teach managers about the reasons that qualify (or not) for FMLA leave.

1. Recognizing an FMLA notice

The first area — recognizing an employee’s notice of the need for leave — can help alleviate situations in which an employee was entitled to the leave, but it was denied or delayed. As part of this training, explain to managers that an employee doesn’t need to use any magic words (including “FMLA”).

An employee’s notice of the need for leave can come in different forms, such as:

  • A doctor’s note indicating some time off for a condition (the employee’s or a family member’s),
  • An employee’s family member/friend calling in for the employee, or
  • An employee’s odd behavior (e.g., sleeping on the job).

Injuries or illnesses that occur at work, whether occupational or not, could also be such notice.

Some managers might believe that employees need to complete a leave application or mention something particular about the need for leave, but that is not the case. If managers have an inkling that an employee might need leave, they should be thinking FMLA.

2. Qualifying FMLA reasons

The second training focus area is FMLA qualifying reasons. Providing managers with information on these reasons can help them weed out situations that clearly do not qualify for FMLA leave (e.g., bonding with a new puppy).

To support such training, provide managers with a list of the basic qualifying reasons and have them keep the list handy. The list can be as basic as the following:

  • Birth of a child
  • Adoption or foster placement of a child
  • The employee’s own serious health condition
  • To care for a family member with a serious health condition
  • Qualifying urgent demand caused by a family member’s military duty
  • To care for a family member with a serious military-related condition

Since this is a basic list, remind managers to contact HR with any questions or concerns about whether an employee’s situation qualifies for FMLA leave.

While training can go into greater detail (some of which might be forgotten), having a list can give managers a quick-reference tool to help make FMLA administration easier.

Key takeaway: Managers are often the weak link in the FMLA compliance chain. These two areas are often what trip them up. Training managers on these areas can, therefore, help your company avoid an FMLA claim.