As reported on this blog in July, the U.S. Department of Labor’s (DOL’s) Wage and Hour Division (WHD) announced that it was taking significant steps to streamline optional-use forms and notices. Workers could use the forms to request leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Employers could also use these forms and notices to coordinate the FMLA leave used at their workplace.

Background on FMLA Documentation

After requesting employer feedback (due on September 15th, 2020), the DOL issued a final approval for the forms and notices. The agency states the revised documents (dated June 2020) are clearer and more user-friendly for invested parties. These parties include employers, leave administrators, health care providers, and employees. The new digitally fillable PDF forms feature a number of “check boxes” rather than requiring written responses. Additionally, certain topics are now more detailed, including employee eligibility and rights and responsibilities, leave designations, and medical information.

The DOL developed these “optional-use” forms so that employers can provide required notices to employees. In turn, employees can use the forms to provide certification of their need of FMLA-qualified leave.

Notice Forms

Employers covered by the FMLA have to provide their employees with certain critical notices. These notices insure that both the employee and the employer have a shared understanding of FMLA leave. Employers can find more information on FMLA notification requirements here.

The following are the revised Department of Labor notices:

  • Eligibility Notice, form WH-381. This notice informs the employee of his or her eligibility for FMLA leave. It could also include at least one reason why the employee is not eligible.
  • Rights and Responsibilities Notice, form WH-381 (combined with the Eligibility Notice listed above). This notice informs the employee of specific expectations and obligations associated with the FMLA leave request. It also includes the consequences of any failure to meet those obligations.
  • Designation Notice, form WH-382 – This notice informs the employee of their FMLA leave request status. It also informs the employee of the designated amount of leave counted against their FMLA entitlement. An employer uses this form to inform an employee that certification is incomplete and they need to provide more information.

Certification Forms

Certification is an optional tool provided for employers to use to request information to support certain FMLA-qualifying reasons for leave. An employee can provide the required information contained on a certification form in any format. These formats include being provided on the letterhead of a healthcare provider, or any official documentation issued by the military.

The updated DOL forms were originally created for the certification of a healthcare provider for a serious health condition:

Employer Takeaways

Since all of these forms and notices are “optional-use,” it is not mandatory for employers to use these specific documents. Employers can use their own forms but the documents must provide the same basic FMLA notice information. Employers must also only require the same basic certification information as included on the FMLA certification forms. No matter the notice or form, however, employers must be sure they are following FMLA documentation standards.