Do colds and the flu qualify for FMLA leave?

It’s a safe bet that some of your employees will come down with influenza this fall and winter. As it does every year, flu season brings confusion and questions over whether the flu or a common cold can rise to the level of “serious health condition” that qualifies for FMLA leave.

FMLA regulations state that, “Unless complications arise, the common cold flu … do not meet the definition of a serious health condition and do not qualify for FMLA leave.”

But pay attention to those first three words … “unless complications arise.”

If the employee’s bad flu bug forces him to be incapacitated for more than three days, and he sees a doctor and receives prescription medication, that employee could meet the criteria to be eligible for FMLA leave.

Bottom line: When an employee’s cold or flu goes beyond “normal,” you’ll need to evaluate the condition on an individual basis to determine whether it’s a “serious” FMLA-qualifying condition.


In such cases, the FMLA certification form is your best friend, as is your ability to request a second opinion if an employee delivers an FMLA certification that you question.