From The Hotline: Communicating With Employees During Family and Medical Leave

Q:  How should we handle a situation where an employee on an approved Family and Medical Leave has not kept in contact?


A:  The employee is on an approved Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) leave and has provided the appropriate medical certification for the need for the leave, and you have provided the appropriate notification of the terms and conditions of the leave. Typically, as part of the designation notice when the employer approves the leave, the employer requests that the employee remain in touch at reasonable intervals (monthly) and notify the employer in advance of when the employee will be returning to work. If your designation notice did not include that, then we recommend the following:


  • Check the medical certification of the need for the leave. If the certification states that the employee will need the full 12 weeks of time off, then you can either: (1) wait until the 12 weeks is about to expire and contact the employee to determine when s/he will be coming back to work and what documentation may be required, such as a return to work release from the doctor; or (2) place a courtesy call to the employee to see how s/he is doing, answer any questions s/he may have and let him/her know that you are expecting him/her back to work at the end of the leave. If you hear nothing from the employee and the FMLA time expires, then we recommend that you contact your attorney for advice prior to assuming that the employee has voluntarily resigned and/or process the termination because s/he did not return to work or notify you of an intent to return to work.
  •  If the certification states that the employee should be able to return to work prior to the 12-week expiration period, then contact the employee in advance of that return to work date to determine if you can expect him/her back to work on that date and what paperwork is required, such as the doctor’s release. If the employee is still unable to return to work, then let the employee know that you need updated certification for the leave extension. If you do not hear from the employee, then follow the same process state above for handling terminations of employment for “job abandonment.”