How to Calculate FMLA Days

By Jackie Lohrey - Updated June 17, 2017
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Calculating Family and Medical Leave Act eligibility, and remaining days available, can be confusing both for employers and for employees. A main sticking point often relates to the FMLA definition of a workweek. Instead of using a standard 7-day week and 24-hour day, regulations define a workweek as the time an employee actually spends working. However, once you establish initial eligibility, there are a number of ways to track and calculate FMLA leave days.

Employee Eligibility Requirements

According to FMLA regulations, both full-time and part-time employees may qualify for a specified amount of unpaid leave every year without placing their jobs at risk. Although most are only eligible for 12 weeks, people who care for an active duty or retired service member with a serious health condition may extend unpaid leave to 26 weeks. However, to be eligible, an employee must have worked for the same employer for at least the previous 12 months, and within this time she must have worked at least 1,250 hours.

Annual Leave Time Calculations

Leave time allowances depend on an employee’s normal workweek prior to starting FMLA leave. For example, if your normal schedule is a standard 40-hour week, you qualify for 480 hours -- 12 weeks times 40 hours -- of FMLA leave each year. However, if you normally work 50 hours each week, you qualify for 600 hours. In the same way, a part-time employee who works an average of 25 hours each week only qualifies for 300 hours of unpaid leave.

Defining the 12-month Period

An employer can base annual leave time entitlement on one of four options. The first option is a standard calendar year. The second option is a fixed 12-month period, such as the business’s fiscal year or a year that starts on an employee’s anniversary date. The third option is a 12-month period that starts on the date an employee’s first FMLA leave for the year begins. The fourth option is a rolling 12-month period measured backward from the date an employee uses any FMLA leave. According to the Society of Human Resource Management, most employers use the rolling 12-month method.

A Sample Rolling Calculation

The rolling method, which some refer to as the look-back method, gets its name because an employer uses the previous 12 months from the date of an FMLA request as the reference period to calculate remaining leave eligibility. For example, if an eligible employee requests four hours of leave time on Jan. 2 to attend a doctor’s appointment, the employer will refer to the previous 12-month period, add the total leave time hours up to this point and then subtract the total from the employee’s eligible allotment.

About the Author

Based in Green Bay, Wisc., Jackie Lohrey has been writing professionally since 2009. In addition to writing web content and training manuals for small business clients and nonprofit organizations, including ERA Realtors and the Bay Area Humane Society, Lohrey also works as a finance data analyst for a global business outsourcing company.

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