Human Resources News & Insights

Should your employees on FMLA earn vacation time?

Employees on FMLA can’t be denied any benefit they earned before taking leave. But what does the law say about employees on leave accruing benefits that are based on hours worked?

Generally, employees on FMLA don’t need to continue earning those benefits. Benefits are accrued based on employers’ individual policies.

For example, if your company gives employees vacation time based on the hours they work, they don’t need to accrue any PTO while on medical leave (as long as other types of unpaid leave are treated the same way).

The same goes for calculating seniority. Hours on FMLA don’t need to be factored into the equation.

But there is one area to look out for: Many companies let employees earn PTO while they’re out on paid vacation. When FMLA runs concurrently with paid leave, employers should continue following that policy.

Otherwise, they could get in trouble for treating an employee using FMLA leave differently than employees who haven’t taken FMLA.

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  1. Earning Vacation and PTO while on a qualified LOA, such as FMLA, is contrary to two very distinct policies: Paid Leave and FMLA. Separate policies, however, they will work in conjunction with one another.

    For example, our vacation policy requires employees are ACTIVE, full-time for six months, provide 2 weeks advance notice, can only be taken in a minimum of 4 hour increments and is designed for ‘extended’ periods away from job duties. PTO is emergent, unplanned personal leave or sick time. Requires notification day of, or in advance when possible. FMLA is an UNPAID, job protected benefit. Vacation and PTO cannot extend job protected leave, but must run concurrently.

    I question the soundness of this advice.

  2. SrHRGuy says:

    Jennifer, that’s a very insightful look into the article and your posting gave me food for thought. Thank you!

  3. Patrick says:

    Based on FMLA guidelines there is no requirement for an employer to allow an employee to accrue earned vacation or seniority while on an FMLA leave. The Department of Labor link is attached below for your review. Scan down to the line “Other Benefits” for this information. The key is the reference to consistency of policies. We do not allow any earned benifits (Vac. or seniority) while an employee is on any type of leave. It makes since because we have employees with 4 weeks of vacation so if they take 12 weeks of FMLA they do not earn a full week of vacation while out.

  4. The article seems to make perfect sense, but as Patrick notes, the main message is consistency of how you treat FMLA leave verses other types of similar non-FMLA leave. In our organization, any employee on a PAID leave status (using/paid Annual/Vacation leave or Sick leave) continues to accrue leave benefits. However anybody on UNPAID leave (irregardless if it is FMLA-related or not) does not accrue any leave benefits. We treat everybody the same.

    As for seniority, even though the article says the law doesn’t require you to give those on FMLA credit towards seniority, we treat it the same way. Any time on a paid leave of absence is counted toward seniority and any time on unpaid leave is not included towards seniority (regardless of FMLA usage). We’re consistent across the board for all types of leave. We also run our paid/unpaid leave concurrently with FMLA. The FMLA is approved for up to 12 weeks (depending on medical necessity) for our rolling year, of which any part of the time may be paid or unpaid, depending on how much vacation/sick leave the person has.

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