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FMLA for Small Businesses: 4 FAQs you Should Know


  • The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) allows eligible employees to take twelve weeks of unpaid leave per year without losing their job.
  • Not all employers are subject to FMLA. For private companies, you need to have at least 50 employees, among other requirements.
  • At Employers Resource, we help businesses simplify HR and ensure FMLA compliance. Get a custom quote for your business!

Ever wondered if the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) applies to your small business? You’re not alone! Many small business owners are unsure about FMLA regulations. This can lead to confusion about employee eligibility, compliance requirements, and potential impacts.

This article answers the 4 most frequently asked questions about FMLA for small businesses. By the end, you’ll have a clear understanding of:

  • Whether your business is subject to FMLA regulations
  • Employee eligibility for leave
  • Steps to ensure compliance
  • Potential effects of FMLA on your business operations

Let’s dive in!

Eligible Employees Can Take up to 12 Weeks of Unpaid Leave to Bond with a Newborn

What Is FMLA?

FMLA stands for the Family and Medical Leave Act, a federal law that provides qualifying employees of up to 12 weeks of unpaid time off per year with their job protected.

FMLA regulations can be intricate and complex to navigate, so here’s a breakdown of the main points:

FMLA Basics

The FMLA allows qualifying employees to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave per year for specific reasons. These reasons include:

  • Receiving medical treatment for themselves.
  • Caring for a spouse, child, or parent with a serious health condition.
  • Bonding with a newborn or newly adopted/fostered child.

The employer must offer the time off and allow the employee to return to the same or equivalent position with the same pay and benefits.

Beyond granting leave, employers must:

  • Continue offering group health benefits to the employee on leave.
  • Properly notify eligible employees of their FMLA rights.
  • Maintain communication with the employee during leave (within reason).
  • Comply with additional leave provisions for military families.

On top of this, some states have additional leave laws that might apply. It’s important to be aware of these regulations. Understanding your obligations under FMLA helps avoid costly lawsuits, which are becoming more common.

Employer Coverage: Does FMLA Apply to Small Business?

Not all employers are subject to FMLA, so it is vital to know whether you meet its requirements.

For a company to be subject to FMLA regulations, they must:

  • Be a private company with at least 50 employees.
  • Have 50 or more employees for each working day during 20 or more calendar workweeks in the current or preceding year.
  • Have at least 50 employees within a 75-mile radius.
  • Government agencies and schools are subject to FMLA regulations regardless of their total number of employees. 

What Is FMLA Employee Eligibility?

For an employee to qualify for FMLA leave, they need to meet two key criteria: working for a qualifying employer (covered in the previous section) and fulfilling specific employment requirements.

Here’s what employees must demonstrate:

  • The employee must have been working for your company for at least 1 continuous year.
  • In the past 12 months, the employee must have worked a minimum of 1,250 hours.
  • The employees’ worksite needs to be at a location where your company has 50 or more employees within a 75-mile radius.

Additionally, the employee must have a qualifying reason for needing leave. These reasons include:

  • Their own serious medical condition requiring treatment or recovery.
  • Caring for a spouse, child, or parent with a serious health condition.
  • The birth or adoption of a child and bonding with the newborn/adopted child.
  • A qualifying emergency related to a spouse, child, or parent on active military duty.

What is FMLA’s Impact on Business?

FMLA offers valuable benefits to employees, but it also has a significant impact on businesses.

Let’s look at the key areas where FMLA can affect your company:

Financial and Compliance Costs

Employees taking FMLA leave can result in temporary staffing gaps and reduced productivity. Studies show that compliance with FMLA “costs employers more than $21 billion in lost productivity, continued health benefits, and labor replacement”.

Not only could FMLA have a large impact on your company’s finances, but it also requires employers to follow specific procedures to remain compliant.

This includes:

  • Posting an FMLA notice explaining employee rights under the FMLA program.
  • Giving all new employees information about the FMLA.
  • Promptly informing employees when they may have an FMLA-qualifying leave.
  • Explaining the employee’s rights and responsibilities under the FMLA.
  • Recording all FMLA leaves as FMLA designated and keeping track of the total leave allotment and how much leave the employee has available.
  • Giving employees an official eligibility notice for FMLA leaves.


The number of lawsuits filed by employees under FMLA has been rising. FMLA has a lower bar of proof than some other employment laws, meaning employees may have an easier time winning cases if your company fails to comply.

Even if your business has less than 50 employees and isn’t directly subject to FMLA, there are still other employment laws to consider. Wrongful termination lawsuits, discrimination claims, and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) can all pose legal risks and require compliance efforts.

FMLA Requires Employers to Follow Specific Procedures to Remain Compliant.

Mitigate the Impact of FMLA Compliance

Understanding FMLA is a crucial first step, but navigating its complexities can be daunting. FMLA violations can lead to costly fines and even lawsuits, jeopardizing your business’s financial health and reputation.

To keep your business compliant, it’s key to create clear, consistent FMLA procedures within your company and review them frequently, as well as providing FMLA training. But also, you might consider partnering with a Professional Employer Organization (PEO) that can handle compliance issues for you. That way, you can prevent FMLA-related mistakes from ever happening.

Let our FMLA experts help your business stay compliant. Schedule a consultation today.

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