The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) allows eligible employees to take up to 12 weeks of FMLA leave in a 12 month period for the care of and bonding with a newborn, adopted or foster child up to one year after birth or placement.
I call this FMLA leave “Baby Bonding with a healthy newborn”; if the leave is to take care of a child who was born with a serious health condition, then it won’t be considered “Bonding” but “taking care of a family member with a serious health condition. These two different types of FMLA qualifying events are handled in very distinct manners.
The FMLA leave taken for Bonding with a newborn, adopted or foster child can only be taken on a continuous basis. On an intermittent basis, only if allowed by the employer. Taking FMLA leave to care for a family member with a serious health condition, for example with a newborn with a serious health condition can be taken in an intermittent, continuous or reduced schedule.
Another major difference between these two types of leaves is that if both eligible FMLA spouses work for the same company, the amount of leave used for bonding needs to be shared by the two employees. However, leave to care for a family member with a serious health condition, each eligible employee is entitled to 12 weeks in a 12-month period.
Now here is the question: If an eligible FMLA employee (father) request FMLA to bond with the newborn, what form do you require the employee to provide?
I have come across some employers who have been requesting the “Certification of Health Care Provider for a Family Member with a Serious Health Condition”. No, no, no if the newborn is healthy.
The FMLA regulations, specifically states: “The employer may not request a certification for leave to bond with a newborn child or a child placed for adoption or foster care”. If the baby was born with a serious health condition then you would ask for the certification.
So what can we ask for? Totally up to the employer! A simple note from the father requesting the time off to bond with the baby or a leave of absence request form is sufficient. Some employers require the father to provide a copy of the baby’s birth certificate and there is nothing wrong with this as long as the employer is consistent with the procedures.
Elga Lejarza-Penn, aPHR, PHR, SPHR, SHRM-CP, SHRM-SCP
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