Retain benefit eligibility after FMLA leave

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in FMLA Guidelines,Human Resources

Q. We understand that employees on FMLA leave don't lose investment toward retirement plans. Leave time is counted as work time. But our policy says that if employees are out for more than 30 days, their anniversary dates will change. Accrued paid-time off and vacation time will be based on the new anniversary date. Can we do this? —K.A., Connecticut

A. No, your policy of changing an employee's anniversary date upon return from FMLA leave violates the law. FMLA regulations clearly state that, at the end of an employee's leave, benefits must resume at the same level and under the same terms as when the leave began. The one exception: If you instituted a companywide policy change while the employee was on FMLA leave, you can apply that change to the employee who took FMLA leave.

Note: Although FMLA leave can't be treated as a break in service for the purpose of vesting or eligibility in pension and other retirement plans, employees aren't entitled to accrue additional seniority or benefits (such as sick time or vacation time) while on unpaid FMLA leave.

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