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Over the next year, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division (WHD) plans to identify and break down barriers to taking workplace leave under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). This could result in more employees taking leave.

Some of the efforts the WHD plans to make include the following:

  • Update their FMLA webpage to help employees understand and exercise their FMLA rights. The webpage averages almost nine million page views each year and is the most visited across all of the agency’s resources. Look for it to become more useable and accessible by employees. Making the information easier could inspire more employees to take leave.
  • Provide new posters and presentations to help employees understand their rights and answer frequently asked questions, focusing on the employee experience. It is unclear whether this means that a new FMLA poster (general notice) is forthcoming, but employers should keep this on their radar.
  • Issue new or updated guidance to help employers understand their FMLA responsibilities. The WHD admits that the FMLA has complicated nuances. More information for employers would be a welcome change.
  • Talk with other agencies to understand why some employees might not know they have FMLA leave protections available.

Reason for the changes

The WHD indicates that, while 15 percent of employees reported taking leave for an FMLA qualifying reason over the course of the prior year, 7 percent reported they needed to take leave for an FMLA qualifying reason, but did not do so.

The year-long efforts hope to help those who don’t currently take FMLA leave. Some employees indicate that they didn’t take leave because they were worried about being treated differently at work because of the reason they needed leave.

Many employees also indicate that they did not take leave because they couldn’t afford to, since the FMLA provides only for unpaid leave.

The lack of a federal paid leave law continues to garner discussion, but the current chance of such a law being enacted remains low.

Key to remember: The WHD wants to increase employee FMLA awareness throughout the coming year; this could lead to more employees taking the leave.