The Family Medical Leave Act
Stephanie J. Zvolenski, MBA
Financial Manager, ABC
As American professionals continue to try to strike an appropriate work/life balance, many physicians and nurse anesthetists are asking the question to their employers or prospective employers, “What is your policy on family leave?”
A federal statute, the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA) mandates protection for employees who need time off from work due to personal and/or family medical matters. Although the application of this legislation depends upon the number of employees in an organization, all employers are faced with the need to address this issue for their employees. To help you gain a brief understanding, we have included here a general overview of the FMLA as well as some guidance on creating your own organizational policy.
Fundamentals of FMLA:
The FMLA is a federal government mandated leave benefit that employers with more than fifty (50) employees are required to provide. Under the FMLA the employer is required to protect an employee’s position with the employer should the employee need to be away from his or her job for any period of time up to twelve (12) weeks annually (calendar year or any twelve month period) if certified by his or her physician for a medical reason for him/herself or a family member.
Under the FMLA, although the employer is required to maintain the employee’s position while away from work, the employer is not required to pay the employee. It is at the employer’s discretion to develop a policy by which to administer the FMLA benefit for its workforce. The employer can either require an employee to use his or her accumulated paid time off (PTO), or the employer can require the employee to take the time off without pay, or some combination. If the employee is covered by a group and/or individual short-term disability (STD) insurance policy, he or shemay apply for the benefits under that policy in accordance with all rules and provisions of the policy. As stated, the employer has the ability to determine the specifics of the group’s administration of the FMLA benefit, so long as the policy is non-discriminatory and available to all employees.
Groups not required to follow the FMLA:
Even though compliance with the FMLA is only required for employers who employ fifty (50) or more employees, many smaller groups struggle with handling cases where employees need to be away from their jobs for an extended period of time, such as pregnancy leave. In order to protect the employer and the employee, the employer should again decide upon a policy for handling situations where employees need to be away from their jobs for an extended period of time when certified by a physician for a medical need.
Each group will opt to implement the policy that best meets its needs considering both coverage needs and expense management.
Most Common Scenarios:
- Employee is required to use PTO time in order to be paid while off work
- Employee is required to take time off without pay, but may use his or her STD if applicable
- Employee is required to use a percentage (%) of his or her accumulated PTO and take the remainder without pay
- Employee may take a portion of the time off without pay and must then use his or her PTO for any additional time needed
For some anesthesia practices administration of the anesthetics and care of the patient becomes the less stressful part of their day. The administrative responsibilities of managing the group practice can be overwhelming, especially when facing issues of staff management and policies and procedures. It is always advisable to maintain and regularly update your practice’s administrative handbook to address items such as discussed above. Certainly you should be careful to always contact your corporate attorney for guidance for assistance with drafting and managing your administrative handbooks in accordance with all federal and state laws and non-discrimination regulations.
Stephanie J. Zvolenski, MBA, is a Financial Manager for ABC. Stephanie is responsible for the financial, strategic and operational management of our financial management clients and also serves as an industry consultant and business advisor. Some of her responsibilities in this role include: provider compensation assessment and comparison to market, shareholder/employment agreements, hospital subsidy negotiation/agreements, feasibility studies for new and existing practice opportunities, governance support review and restructuring and design and administration of benefit programs. Stephanie has been with ABC for 4 years and has 15 years of experience in physician practice management including serving as an Administrative Director for a multi-specialty physician practice network within a three hospital system and as a system service line Director. She holds a BA from Washington and Jefferson College and a MBA from Waynesburg University. Stephanie can be reached at 724-952-1361 or at Stephanie.Zvolenski@AnesthesiaLLC.com.