What counts as an ‘FMLA week’: 40 hours?

Q. How should I calculate the number of hours to charge to an employee’s 12-week FMLA entitlement? We have employees who work 40, 55 and 64 hours per week. Do we give them a 12-week cap or do we extend the weekly amount to cover the amount of weeks it would take to cover 480 hours (which assumes a “standard” 40-hour week)? — N.P., Illinois

A. According to the Department of Labor’s regulations, an employee is entitled to the equivalent of 12 regular “workweeks” of FMLA leave. Different employees have different workweeks depending on the number of hours they work.

More specifically, an employer should determine an employee’s workweek by calculating the average number of hours that person actually worked in the 12-week period immediately preceding the start of the leave. If the employee averaged 55 hours per week, then she would be entitled to 660 hours of FMLA leave, which could be used intermittently or as one dozen 55-hour weeks.