Tips for tracking FMLA leave

Calculating the 12-month leave period, varying schedules, holidays

Posted July 10, 2017

Funny, you never hear people talking about how much they enjoy keeping track of employees’ time off under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), particularly when that leave is unforeseeable and intermittent. Attendees of a recent FMLA webcast indicated that the toughest part of administering FMLA leave is the tracking, and it’s safe to assume the intermittent leave poses the greatest grief. From Excel spreadsheets to sophisticated trackers, FMLA administrators use a variety of tools to help with this task. Some employers get help from supervisors and managers, and others expect employees to help keep track.

Whatever method you use to keep track of FMLA leave, you should be aware of some of the details regarding how you calculate the leave.

The 12-month leave year period

An eligible employee is entitled to up to 12 workweeks of FMLA leave in a 12-month leave year period. You may choose from four methods to calculate that 12-month leave year period:

  1. Calendar year
  2. Another fixed 12-month period (business year, etc.)
  3. The 12 months measured forward from when an employee first takes leave, or
  4. A “rolling” 12-month period measured backward from the date an employee uses any FMLA leave.

Whatever method you choose should be applied to all FMLA leaves.

Not 480 hours

As mentioned, an eligible employee is entitled to up to 12 workweeks in a 12-month leave year. This does not necessarily mean a traditional Sunday – Monday week; it is a workweek, which is generally defined by your company. If an employee works 40 hours a week, the math is easy: 40 x 12 = 480. But not all employees normally work 40 hours per week. Some work 35, some work 52. You need to look at the actual workweek.

If an employee is normally required to work overtime, you need to include the overtime hours in your calculation.

And of course, any time an employee is working, even if it’s light duty, that time is not FMLA leave, and should not be counted against the employee’s 12 weeks of FMLA leave.

Varying schedules

If an employee’s schedule varies from week to week such that you can’t determine how many hours he or she would otherwise work, you may take a weekly average of the hours scheduled over the past 12 months to calculate the employee’s leave entitlement.


If an employee is taking FMLA leave in full-week increments, you can overlook a holiday that occurs in one of those weeks. You would simply count the week as a week of FMLA leave. If, however, an employee is taking leave in less-than-full week increments (such as during intermittent or reduced schedule leave), you would not count the holiday as FMLA leave unless the employee was otherwise scheduled and expected to work during the holiday.

Now, if chocolate were unforeseeable (surprise!) and intermittent (don’t have to eat it all at once), then we’d have something fun to talk about.

This article was written by Darlene Clabault of J. J. Keller & Associates, Inc.

J. J. Keller® FMLA Manager™ ServiceJ. J. Keller® FMLA Manager™ Service makes leave tracking easier while complying with the latest federal & state regulations.


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