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There’s a lot to keep track of when administering employees’ time off, especially when it falls under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).

Employers might wonder if they need to tell employees when their FMLA leave is running out. And the simple answer is “not really.”

Neither the statute nor the regulations specifically require you to notify or remind employees that their FMLA leave exhausted or is close to it. If you know how much time FMLA leave an employee is taking, you are, however, required to include that information on the designation notice. But, otherwise, there isn’t any other form or required document to tell an employee, “Hey, you’re running low on FMLA leave.”

Does this mean you may not give employees such a reminder?

Again, the simple answer is “no.” Employers may even have good arguments for doing so.

Why a gentle reminder can be helpful

When employees are on FMLA leave, the reason behind the need for leave will probably be of great importance to the employee. It could be because a baby was born or because a family member has a serious health condition. In any case, the employees most likely have a lot on their mind. They might not be constantly thinking about when they will return to work or when they will run out of FMLA leave.

Providing a gentle reminder can show employees that you’re thinking of them, and that you expect them to return on a particular date. Employees generally appreciate knowing what is expected of them. Giving them such a reminder can also help allay any questions about whether they knew they were expected back on such a date.

This could also be a good opportunity to remind employees that if they cannot return to work because of continued issues with their own serious health condition, they should let the employer know. In cases like this, an employer then can engage in an interactive process (dialogue) with the employee regarding possible reasonable accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act. One accommodation, for example, might be more leave time.

Providing employees with reminders about how much leave time they have left can also address the consequences for any absences after FMLA protections expire. This is especially important in terms of maintaining employee benefits.

Designation notice changes

If the information in the designation notice changes, such as if the employee exhausts FMLA leave then requests more leave, you must provide a written notice of the change. Like with the original designation notice, a change notice must be given to the employee within five business days of receipt of the employee's first notice of need for additional leave.

Therefore, if, after an employee exhausts all 12 weeks of FMLA leave, the employee asks for more leave, you are to notify the employee of the changes to the designation notice. You may use another designation notice if you wish, but you are not required to do so. You could simply indicate to the employee that there is no more FMLA leave available, so the additional leave will not be designated as FMLA leave.

Key to remember: Keeping the lines of communication open between you and employees who are on FMLA leave can benefit both employers and employees, even if all types of communication aren’t necessarily required.