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How to Figure the 12-Month Period Under the FMLA


Under the FMLA, an employer can use one of four methods to calculate the 12-month period in which eligible employees can take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for family and medical reasons. The four methods are:

  1. The calendar year.
  2. Any fixed 12-month period.
  3. Measuring forward.
  4. Measuring backward.

The Calendar Year

This is the easiest method, as the employee's 12-month leave period would simply begin on January 1 and end on December 31. For example, the employee can take 12 weeks of leave starting October 1 and ending December 31.

Any Fixed 12-Month Period

This 12-month period can be the same as the calendar year, or any other fixed 12-month period—such as your company's fiscal year (e.g., October 1 through September 30). Alternatively, the 12-month period can begin on the employee's anniversary date.

Like the calendar year method, the fixed method is easy to administer and track. All you have to do is figure the amount of leave that was taken during the 12-month period and, unless you're using the employee's anniversary date, the same 12-month period can be applied to all employees taking FMLA leave.

However, the fixed and calendar year methods could potentially lead to the employee qualifying for 24 weeks of consecutive leave. For instance, an employee who takes 12 weeks of leave from October through December can also take an additional 12 weeks of leave starting in January of the next year, since a new 12-month period has now begun.

Measuring Forward

Here, the 12-month period begins on the first day the employee takes FMLA leave. The next 12-month period would start the first time the employee takes leave after the last 12-month period expires.

For example, if an employee takes FMLA leave on July 2, 2018, his or her 12-month period would begin on July 2, 2018, and end on July 1, 2019. The next 12-month leave period would begin on or after July 2, 2019.

Measuring Backward

Unlike the previous method, which "looks forward," this method "looks backward" to the preceding 12 months. Eligibility is based on how much FMLA time the employee took since the last 12-month period. The calculation steps are as follows:

  1. Determine how much leave the employee is currently requesting.
  2. Figure how much leave the employee has taken in the past 12 months.
  3. Subtract any leave taken in the past 12 months from the amount of leave the employee is entitled to for the current 12-month period.

The employee should receive whatever is left over. If the employee did not take any leave in the preceding 12 months, he or she is entitled to the full 12 weeks of leave. Although complex, this method prevents the employee from stacking two 12-week periods back-to-back.

Once you've decided on a calculation method, make sure it's applied consistently and uniformly to all employees.


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