Family & Medical Leave Act
Administered By Human Resource Services
- The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) requires covered employers to provide up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave per 12 month period to eligible employees for certain family, medical, and military-related reasons.
- The University of Northern Iowa is considered a covered employer and must provide FMLA benefits and protections to eligible employees as well as comply with other responsibilities under FMLA regulations.
- The 12 month period for FMLA leave entitlement at UNI is the annual calendar year in which approved FMLA leave is tracked from January 1 through December 31 by Human Resource Services (HRS).
- FMLA approved leave may be taken in one continuous block of time, intermittently (days or hours), or on a reduced schedule basis as the medical condition requires and the healthcare provider certifies.
- UNI FMLA Leave policy requires employees to utilize their appropriate paid leave accruals concurrently with approved FMLA leave.
- You must be employed for at least 12 months prior to the start of leave but that time period does not need to be continuous or consecutive. Time worked prior to a break in employment of seven years or more is not counted toward the 12 month period.
- You must work at least 1,250 hours during the 12 months before your leave begins. This total consists only of hours worked, not hours in paid status. You must work at a location where your employer has at least 50 employees within 75 miles of your worksite.
- Your own serious health condition (i.e. illness, injury, impairment, or physical/psychiatric condition) that makes you unable to perform the essential functions of your job.
- The birth of a child and/or to bond with your healthy newborn child.
- The placement of a child in your home for adoption and/or foster care and to bond with the newly placed child.
- To care for a child, spouse, or parent with a serious health condition.
- Military caregiver leave to care for a covered service member with a serious injury or illness if you are the service member’s spouse, son, daughter, parent, or next of kin.
- Qualifying exigency leave if your spouse, son, daughter, or parent is a military member on covered active duty or has been notified of an impending call/order to covered active duty.
Communication & Notice
Ongoing communication between you, your supervisor, and HRS ensures that the FMLA leave process runs smoothly whether the leave is continuous, intermittent, or on a reduced schedule basis.
- If you know in advance that you will need FMLA leave, you must give your supervisor at least 30 days advance notice so they may plan for coverage of your duties in your absence.
- If you learn of your need for leave less than 30 days in advance, you must give your supervisor and/or HRS notice as soon as possible prior to your leave.
- While on continuous FMLA leave, you must inform your supervisor and/or HRS as soon as possible if your leave needs change.
- HRS may also require you to provide periodic updates on your status and your intent to return to work when on continuous FMLA leave.
- When possible, employees are expected to make reasonable effort to schedule their own intermittent medical treatment or intermittent care of a family member so as not to unduly disrupt the department's operations.
- When you need leave unexpectedly (i.e. intermittent FMLA leave or emergency situations), you must inform your supervisor as soon as you can, following your department’s usual call-in procedures.
FMLA Leave Process
Step 1: Notify your supervisor and/or HRS as soon as you know you will need leave.
- You do not have to disclose the medical condition but you do need to provide the general reason for your leave and estimated duration of your absence.
Step 2: HRS will notify you of your eligibility for FMLA leave entitlement within five business days after learning of your leave situation.
- HRS will provide you with necessary FMLA paperwork and information.
- If you are not eligible for FMLA leave, you will be provided information about other leave options available to you.
Step 3: If medical certification is requested by HRS, you must return the form, completed by the appropriate healthcare provider, to HRS within 15 calendar days.
- A reminder will be sent to you if certification is not received within 15 days.
- You may be required to correct any deficiencies in your certification before FMLA leave can be approved.
- A second medical opinion may be sought in certain circumstances.
Step 4: HRS will notify you and your supervisor whether FMLA leave has been approved within five business days of receiving completed certification.
- If approved, FMLA leave may only be taken for the health condition(s) that the healthcare provider identifies on the certification form.
- FMLA leave will be denied if certification is not received after extensions have been provided.
Returning to Work
- You are not allowed to take more FMLA leave than is necessary to resolve the circumstances for which you needed leave.
- Prior to returning to work you must contact your supervisor and/or HRS to provide an update on your status and a medical release from your healthcare provider.
- If you are able to return to work earlier than anticipated, you must notify HRS as soon as possible.
- HRS will notify your supervisor of any temporary work restrictions indicated by your healthcare provider to determine if UNI is able to accommodate your return to work.
- UNI has the right to require a second opinion or fitness for duty exam if there are concerns regarding the return to work parameters.
Note: If you have physical restrictions upon returning to work and need to access alternative parking spaces on campus, you may apply for temporary accessible parking privileges at the Department of Public Safety Parking Division. In most cases, you will need to provide a doctor’s note to support your request.
Eligible Spouses Combined Limitation
When spouses work for UNI and each spouse is eligible for FMLA leave, they are limited to a combined total of 12 weeks of leave in a 12 month period for the following reasons:
- the birth of a child and bonding with the newborn child
- the placement of a son or daughter with the employee for adoption or foster care and bonding with the newly-placed child
- the care of a parent with a serious health condition
Eligible spouses are also limited to a combined total of 26 weeks for military caregiver leave.
These limitations do not apply to two employees working for UNI who are not legally married.
If only one spouse employed by UNI is eligible for FMLA leave, that individual is entitled to the full 12 weeks of leave for the reasons noted above.
FMLA leave reasons not subject to the combined limitation include:
- care of a spouse or child with a serious health condition
- the employee's own serious health condition
- qualifying exigency leave
Birth of a Child
- Eligible pregnant employees approved for FMLA leave may take medical leave for prenatal care and incapacity related to pregnancy and for their own serious health condition following the birth of a child.
- The medically indicated postpartum healing period is typically six to eight weeks, depending on the type of delivery. This period of time must be taken as a continuous block of leave.
- Remaining FMLA leave entitlement may be taken for bonding with the healthy newborn child after the employee is released to return to work by their healthcare provider. Leave for bonding may be taken intermittently when requested and approved by HRS.
- FMLA-eligible employees who are non-birthing parents may use FMLA leave for the birth of a child, to bond with a newborn child, and/or to care for their spouse who is incapacitated due to pregnancy or child birth.
- FMLA leave entitlement for birth and bonding reasons expires 12 months after the date of birth.
- Pregnant employees who are not eligible for FMLA leave entitlement will still be granted an unpaid leave of absence for up to eight weeks, as required by doctor’s orders. HRS will request medical documentation to support this type of leave.
- Non-birthing parents who are not eligible for FMLA leave may still request to use vacation time, compensatory time, or available family caregiving leave for the birth of their child and/or to care for their spouse with approval from their supervisor.
- The catastrophic leave program may be accessed in situations where the birthing parent does not have enough paid leave accruals to cover periods of pregnancy-related temporary disability and/or medically indicated postpartum recovery.
Adoption and Foster Care Placement
- FMLA-eligible employees are entitled to up to 12 weeks of leave for placement of a child in the home for adoption or foster care.
- Leave may be taken before the actual placement of a child in their home if an absence from work is required in order for the placement to proceed.
- Examples: attend counseling sessions, appear in court, consult with an attorney or adoption agency, submit to physical examination, or travel to complete adoption before the actual date of placement.
- Time off work to bond with a child after placement with the employee must be taken as a continuous block of leave unless UNI agrees to allow intermittent leave.
- FMLA leave entitlement for adoption or foster care expires 12 months after the placement.
- Employees who are not eligible for FMLA leave entitlement may also request leave for the adoption and/or foster care process with approval from their supervisor.
Employee Rights & Protections
- FMLA leave status does not protect you from actions that would have affected you if you were not on FMLA leave.
- Example: if your shift is cut, overtime hours reduced, or position is eliminated, you would not be able to return from FMLA leave to your same position.
- While on FMLA leave, you are entitled to any unconditional pay increases that may have occurred during your FMLA leave period.
- Pay increases based on periodic performance reviews and seniority may be delayed by the amount of unpaid FMLA leave utilized.
- Upon return from FMLA leave, most employees must be restored to the same job or one nearly identical to it with equivalent pay, benefits, and other employment terms and conditions.
- The University is not required to reinstate you to your previous position if you are unable to perform the essential functions of your job upon return from leave.
- The University will not use an employee’s FMLA leave as a negative factor in any employment action, including promotions, or otherwise discriminate against any individual for exercising their rights to such leave.
- Employees on FMLA leave are entitled to health and dental insurance benefits under the same conditions as other employees.
- If you are on unpaid FMLA leave for a full calendar month, you must make arrangements to pay the employee share of insurance premiums owed.
- UNI must send you notice in writing at least 15 days before the date that your coverage will end if you do not make payment.
- If the premium is still not paid 30 days after the date the premium was due, your coverage will be cancelled.
- If you do not return to work after FMLA leave entitlement is exhausted, the University may exercise its right to recover any premium amounts paid unless you are unable to return because of a serious health condition or some other factor beyond your control.
- Once you return from FMLA leave, all benefits will be reinstated with no change in coverage.
FMLA Covered Workers' Compensation
- FMLA leave entitlement will run concurrently with a workers' compensation absence when the injury or illness is one that meets the criteria for a serious health condition and the employee is FMLA eligible.
- Under a workers' compensation claim, light or restricted duty assignments may be substituted for an employee's regular job if approved by the healthcare provider and if the University has suitable assignments available.
- An employee has the right to decline the restricted duty assignment; however, in that case the employee may no longer be eligible for workers' compensation payments.
FMLA Absence Reporting
The University's FMLA policy requires employees to use sick, vacation, or other appropriate paid leave accruals concurrently when approved for FMLA job-protected leave status.
The FMLA designated leave codes identified below should only be used if you have received approval and instructions regarding appropriate timecard coding from Human Resource Services. Using the FMLA leave codes assists HRS with tracking the 12 weeks of leave entitlement.
- FMLA Sick Leave - paid time off on a continuous, intermittent, or reduced schedule basis for your own serious health condition.
- FMLA Medical Appointment - paid time off for follow-up and treatment appointments related to your own serious health condition.
- FMLA Family Caregiving Leave - staff may use up to 80 hours of paid time off from sick leave accruals (depending on available balances) to care for a family member with a serious health condition or to bond with a newborn child, adopted child, or child placed with you for foster care. Faculty members may use up to 15 days per academic year. For more information see Family Caregiving Leave FAQ.
- FMLA Adoption Leave - up to 40 hours of paid time off from sick leave accruals for foster care placement or adoption of a child.
- FMLA Comp Time Used - paid time off through use of previously earned compensatory time which may be used for any approved FMLA situation.
- FMLA Work Comp (Sick/Injury) - time missed due to a work-related injury or illness applied concurrently with work comp medical leave when appropriate.
- FMLA Off Duty (No Pay) - hour type used if no other paid time off is available for approved FMLA situations.
Frequently Asked Questions
- 1Q: Does the Family & Medical Leave Act guarantee paid time off?
1A: The FMLA statute only mandates that employers provide unpaid leave to eligible employees; however, UNI Policy 4.49 requires employees to use paid leave accruals prior to taking unpaid FMLA leave.
- 2Q: I have been at UNI for a year but I only work part-time. Am I eligible for FMLA leave?
2A: To be eligible for FMLA, you must have worked at least 1,250 hours during the 12 months prior to the start of your need for leave. This requirement equates to approximately a 60% work schedule.
- 3Q: I work only during the academic year when classes are in session. How does FMLA leave apply if my absence starts or ends when classes are not in session and I am not required to report to work?
3A: Any break in your normal work schedule of one week or more when you would not otherwise be expected to report to work, does not count against your FMLA entitlement. You also would not be required to use paid leave accruals during that time.
- 4Q: If there is a paid holiday during my FMLA leave is that day counted as part of my leave?
4A: If a holiday falls during a week of continuous FMLA leave, the full week is still counted as FMLA leave; however, you are not required to use paid sick leave accruals for the holiday.
- 5Q: Do I have to give UNI my medical records in order for FMLA leave to be approved?
5A: You do not have to provide medical records; however, your healthcare provider will need to complete the appropriate medical certification form if requested by HRS. You must return this form within 15 calendar days after you receive it.
- 6Q: Does my supervisor have access to the FMLA paperwork submitted by my healthcare provider?
6A: FMLA certification forms are kept confidential in HRS and are not provided to supervisors.
- 7Q: Am I allowed to work from home during approved FMLA leave?
7A: We ask that employees not perform work on behalf of the University during approved FMLA leave of absence. However, if your healthcare provider believes you are able to carry out some of your job responsibilities during your recovery time, you need to provide a medical release completed by your healthcare provider to HRS. The release should indicate the date you may resume work related tasks, the number of work hours each day or week, and other relevant work restrictions.
- 8Q: Can my supervisor require me to work from home during FMLA leave?
8A: We cannot require that you perform work during an approved medical leave since that time off is meant to help you address the circumstances of your leave. In general, minimal tasks such as completing a timecard or responding to an email request for general information wouldn't be of concern. However, tasks that relate to your regular job duties or that require a significant amount of time should not be asked of you.
- 9Q: Can UNI contact me to make inquiries about my leave during my absence?
9A: HRS may contact you to see how you are doing; assess possible accommodations needed upon your return; and to confirm whether your return to work date is or is not on target. Your supervisor may also check in with you to see how you are doing or to request general information readily accessible to you related to department operations (i.e. location of keys, passwords, contact info, etc.)
- 10Q: Can UNI require me to return to work before I exhaust my FMLA leave?
10A: You may be required to return to work if you no longer have a serious health condition as defined by FMLA or if you fail to fulfill your obligation to provide supporting medical certification. We cannot require you to return to work early by offering you a light duty assignment.
- 11Q: Can I return to work before my 12 weeks of FMLA entitlement is over?
11A: Yes. If your leave is due to your own serious health condition, you must have a medical release from your healthcare provider allowing you to return to work. UNI has the right to require a second opinion or fitness for duty exam if there are concerns regarding the return to work parameters.
- 12Q: Are there any restrictions on how I spend my time while on FMLA leave?
12A: UNI does not restrict how you spend your time while on FMLA leave unless the reason for the leave no longer exists; you have failed to provide requested medical certification; or if the reason for the leave has been misrepresented.
- 13Q: Can UNI refuse to grant me FMLA leave?
13A: Yes, if you are not eligible for FMLA leave or if the reason for leave does not qualify under the FMLA. FMLA leave may also be denied if you fail to provide necessary paperwork to qualify your leave under FMLA.
- 14Q: Does FMLA leave cover visits to a physical therapist, if my doctor prescribes the therapy?
14A: If your FMLA leave request is approved and your healthcare provider refers you to physical therapy for continuing treatment, this type of intermittent leave would be covered. Absences for this reason would be recorded as "FMLA Medical Appointment" when completing your timecard.
- 15Q: I am expecting a baby this year and I have lots of sick leave accrued. Can I use sick leave for the entire 12 weeks of my maternity leave?
15A: You may use sick leave only during the period that your physician certifies that you are unable to work because of the pregnancy and delivery. Any leave beyond that period must be taken as vacation, compensatory time off or leave without pay.
- 16Q: Can the University count leave due to pregnancy complications against the 12 weeks of FMLA leave for the birth and care of my child?
16A: Yes. If you are an eligible employee and pregnancy complications prevent you from working, that leave time may be counted as part of the total 12 weeks of FMLA leave entitlement for the calendar year.
- 17Q: Can the University count time on maternity leave as FMLA leave?
17A: Yes. Maternity leave for the birth of a child would be considered qualifying FMLA leave and will be counted as part of the 12 weeks of leave entitlement.
- 18Q: Who is considered an immediate "family member" for purposes of taking FMLA leave?
18A: An employee's spouse, children and parents are immediate family members for the purposes of FMLA. The term parent does not include a parent "in-law." The term children does not include children over the age of 18 unless they are "incapable of self-care" because of a mental or physical disability.
- 19Q: I am a Merit employee. Will I receive my salary increase on my normal anniversary date even though I am on FMLA leave?
19A: You may not. Unpaid FMLA leaves of 30 calendar days or more will cause the University to adjust the merit increase date. This new merit increase date will become the employee's permanent date.
- 20Q: Will I receive my scheduled July 1 salary increase while I am on an FMLA leave?
20A: Yes. Employees on FMLA leave are eligible to receive all across-the-board salary increases that are not contingent upon an anniversary date or performance appraisal.
- 21Q: What happens to my benefits if I am on unpaid FMLA leave?
21A: During the 12 weeks of FMLA leave, UNI is required to continue to pay the university share of the health, dental, vision, life and long term disability insurance premiums. If you are on unpaid FMLA Leave, you will be directly billed for your portion of the health, dental, and/or vision premiums.
If you have a flexible spending account (FSA) and are in FMLA unpaid status, contributions to the account will cease until you return to work. You also will not accrue sick or vacation leave during unpaid FMLA leave.
- 22Q: Can UNI cancel my coverage if I can't afford to pay my share of health and dental premiums while on unpaid FMLA leave?
22A: UNI must send you notice in writing at least 15 days before the date that your coverage will lapse. If the premium is still not paid 30 days after the date the premium was due, your coverage will be cancelled.
- 23Q: Does UNI have to continue my other benefits while I am on unpaid FMLA leave?
23A: FMLA statute only requires that the University continue your health and dental insurance. Please review the I Need to Take a Leave webpage for additional information.
- 24Q: Can the University fill my position while I am away on FMLA leave?
24A: Based on department staffing needs, a temporary employee may be hired to fulfill your job duties while you are on leave. Once you return from leave, you are entitled to your same job or an equivalent position with no loss of pay or status. Equivalent position is defined as a position in the same job location, with the same shift or equivalent work schedule, requiring substantially equivalent skill, effort, responsibility and authority and having the same pay and benefits.
- 25Q: If UNI has a layoff while I am on FMLA leave and my job would have been affected by the layoff, will I still have the entitlement to the same or equivalent position at the end of my leave?
25A: No. FMLA leave does not offer you any greater job protection than you would have had if you had not taken a leave.