Family and Medical Leave (FML)

Definitions of Terms Relating to FML Leave

The table below provides a list of terms related to FML Leave and their respective definitions:

Covered Service Member

(1) a current member of the Armed Forces, National Guard, or Reserves who has a serious injury or illness incurred in or aggravated by service in the line of duty on active duty that may render the service member medically unfit to perform his or her duties and for which the service member is undergoing medical treatment, recuperation, or therapy; or is in outpatient status; or is on the temporary disability retired list; or

(2) a veteran undergoing such medical treatment, recuperation, or therapy for a serious injury or illness and who was a member of the Armed Forces, National Guard, or Reserves at any time during the five years preceding the date of such treatment, recuperation, or therapy.

Eligible Employee An employee who is scheduled to work at least 17.5 hours per week, is eligible for benefits, and has completed his/her probationary/orientation and review period under the applicable policy or labor contract.
Job-protected See below, Job Protection - What It Means
Qualifying Exigencies (Military service-related) Qualifying Exigencies may include attending certain military events, arranging for alternative childcare, addressing certain financial and legal arrangements, attending certain counseling sessions, and attending post-deployment reintegration briefings.
Serious Health Condition An illness, injury, impairment, or physical or mental condition that involves either an overnight stay in a medical care facility, or continuing treatment by a health care provider for a condition that either prevents the employee from performing the functions of the employee’s job, or prevents the qualified family member from participating in school or other daily activities. (Note: The common cold, ear aches, minor upset stomach, ulcers, headaches other than migraine, routine dental or orthodontia problems, periodontal disease, etc., are examples of conditions that may not meet the definition of a serious health condition and may not qualify for FMLA Leave.)
Twelve Month Period The 12-month FMLA period is measured forward from the date an employee's first FMLA Leave begins. For example, if an employee's FMLA Leave begins on May 1, that employee's "leave year" begins on May 1 and ends on April 30 of the following year. The next 12-month period would begin the first time Family and Medical Leave is taken after completion of any previous FMLA 12-month period.


FMLA Leave in Relation to Your Job and Other Benefits

Job Protection – What It Means:

(a) Returning to work. Upon return from FMLA Leave, you will be returned to the position you held when the leave began or, if agreeable to you and your manager, an equivalent position with equivalent benefits, pay, and other terms and conditions of employment.

(b) Benefits. The same group health benefits will be provided during the FMLA Leave that you received before the leave; if you are responsible for a portion of the required contributions, you must continue to make those payments during the FMLA Leave.

Relationship of Unpaid FMLA Leave to Paid Leave

FMLA Leave is unpaid. However, Eligible Employees may elect to use accrued paid leave such as sick, vacation, or personal leave, or Short Term Disability, if approved, during any part of the 12-week FMLA Leave period. Also, if the FMLA Leave is for a family illness, the employee must use accrued “dependent sick” days (up to 12 per year) at the onset of the FMLA Leave. After exhausting those days, the employee may choose to substitute accrued and unused vacation or personal time for a portion of the unpaid FMLA Leave.

The amount of time taken for a paid leave for any of the circumstances covered by the FMLA will be counted towards the FMLA entitlement. For example, an employee who takes four paid weeks off, using a combination of vacation, sick, and personal leave time, to attend to a serious health condition, would have eight weeks remaining of his 12-month allotment of job-protected FMLA leave.


Taking FMLA Leave - Special Circumstances

Intermittent Leave/ Reduced Leave Schedule

You do not need to use your FMLA entitlement in one block. Leave can be taken intermittently or on a reduced leave schedule when medically necessary, and may also be taken intermittently for Qualifying Exigencies. Intermittent leave is FMLA Leave taken in separate blocks of time for a single reason. A reduced leave schedule is a schedule that reduces an employee’s usual number of work hours per day or per week.

If the need for intermittent leave or a reduced leave schedule is based on planned medical treatment (e.g., to receive recurring physical therapy or chemotherapy treatment), you should make reasonable efforts to schedule the treatment in a way that may minimize disruption of your work group’s operations. You may also be transferred temporarily to an available alternative position with equivalent pay and benefits that better accommodates recurring periods of leave.

Please note that FMLA Leaves taken for purposes of birth, adoption, or foster care must be taken in continuous periods and within 12 months of the date of birth or placement for adoption or foster care.

When Both Spouses Work for the University

Spouses who work for Harvard and who are both eligible for FMLA Leave are limited to a combined total of 12 weeks of FMLA Leave during a 12-month period for birth or placement of a child and to care for the same sick parent. Each eligible spouse is entitled to 12 weeks of FMLA Leave for his or her own serious health condition or that of the other spouse or a dependent child.


More About Certain Circumstances Covered by FMLA

Birth or Placement of a Child for Adoption or Foster Care

Birth parents and foster and adoptive parents are eligible for an unpaid job-protected 12-week FMLA Leave that begins with the birth or placement of the child (or travel for adoption, when necessary). If both parents work at Harvard, they are entitled to a combined total of 12 weeks leave in the 12-month period immediately following the birth or placement of the child.

Under the Massachusetts Maternity Leave Act (MMLA), birth or adoptive mothers are entitled to an unpaid job-protected leave of eight weeks for each child born or adopted at one time. For example, an employee who has twins or adopts two children at the same time would be entitled to a total of 16 weeks of job-protected leave. In all cases, FMLA Leave will run concurrently with MMLA leave.

Serious Health Condition

Eligible Employees are entitled to take a 12-week FMLA Leave in the event of the employee’s, or to take care of a family member’s, Serious Health Condition. If the leave is for a family illness, the employee must use accrued “dependent sick” days at the onset of the FMLA Leave. When the need for this type of leave is foreseeable, the request for FMLA Leave should be made at least 30 days in advance, or as close to 30 days as possible. Employees will be asked to provide medical certification of the serious health condition requiring the leave.

Military Families

Eligible Employees with a spouse, son, daughter, or parent on active duty or call to active duty status in the Armed Forces, National Guard, or Reserves in a foreign country or in support of a contingency operation may use their 12-week leave entitlement to address certain Qualifying Exigencies.

FMLA also includes a special leave entitlement that permits eligible employees to take up to 26 weeks of leave to care for a Covered Service Member during a single 12-month period.