FMLA insights for employers and HR professionals
The nuances of how FMLA can be used to manage mental health conditions can be difficult to understand, even for HR professionals. Below are three tips for employers:
- Employees are not required to refer to FMLA when applying for leaves. Employers should proactively offer FMLA leave as an option for employees who are suffering from a serious medical condition that is impacting their ability to perform their job duties, including diagnosed and reported mental health conditions.
- As with any other serious health condition, employees are obligated to provide medical certification of their health condition to their employer within 15 days. In some situations, the employee’s mental health may delay the employee from providing documentation. Responding with empathy should include recognizing there may be sensitivities that come with anxiety around releasing this type of medical information and it is important to work with the employee to provide every opportunity to get their supporting paperwork in. Conditions that are less obvious than a broken leg can may call for an individualized approach.
- Employers should be mindful of employees with FMLA leaves with regards to performance management. If an employee’s performance issues could possibly be related to their mental health condition or if the employer did not start to document such issues until after the employee began using FMLA time, then the employee could have an argument for retaliation for using FMLA.
Mental wellness is important in any workplace. Not only does poor mental health affect employees on a personal level, but it also impacts productivity. Understanding the importance of effectively managing absences caused by mental health conditions, and by offering FMLA as appropriate to affected employees, employers can empower their teams and show that they value individuals and will work with them to provide leave when it is needed.