Employees in Michigan are covered by the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), a federal law that applies to employees in all 50 states. They may also be covered by Michigan’s Paid Medical Leave Act, which went into effect in March 2019.
Both acts offer legal protections to eligible employees with a sick family member or a serious health condition, but the eligibility requirements and entitlements differ. Also, recent court rulings have altered the terms of the Paid Medical Leave Act, making it especially important for Michigan employers to stay up-to-date on the law.
Here’s an overview of how state and federal leave laws work, and how to meet your obligations under FMLA in Michigan.
FMLA in Michigan Explained
The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) was passed in 1993, and provides up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave in any 12-month period. Since this is a federal law, it applies to eligible employees anywhere in the U.S., including in the state of Michigan.
Employees can’t simply take FMLA leave whenever they want; they have to meet strict eligibility requirements, such as having a serious injury or illness in the family. Here are some of the most common situations that FMLA covers:
- The birth of a child
- The adoption of a child
- The placement of a child into foster care
- The serious illness of a family member
- An employee’s own serious health condition
- A qualifying exigency relating to active duty military service
Although FMLA leave is unpaid, it is job-protected, which means that the employee has the right to return to the same job or a reasonably equivalent position. Employees are also entitled to keep their health insurance coverage while on leave, as long as they continue to pay their share of the premiums.
If an employee needs to take intermittent leave for medical reasons, they can, as long as their total amount of leave doesn’t exceed 12 workweeks in a calendar year.
That 12-week limit applies to all types of family and medical leave except for one: They can take up to 26 weeks of leave to care for a sick or injured service member.
Eligibility Requirements for FMLA in Michigan
Not every employee who wants to take a leave of absence will be eligible for FMLA. In addition to having a qualifying reason, they must work for a covered employer. Here’s how the Department of Labor defines a covered employer at DOL.gov:
- A government agency (state, local, or federal)
- A public or private school (elementary or secondary)
- A private-sector employer with at least 50 employees
The employee must also have spent a minimum amount of time working for the same employer before they can exercise their FMLA rights. These amounts are:
- 1,250 total work hours in the previous year
- 12 months of work for the same employer in total
The 12 months can be either consecutive or non-consecutive, which means that temporary and seasonal employees may be eligible for FMLA in Michigan.
However, there must be at least 50 employees working for the employer within 75 miles of the employee’s primary job site. This could exclude some employees who work from home or at regional branches of a company from being eligible for FMLA.
Alternatives to FMLA in Michigan
A growing number of states, including California and New York, have introduced their own paid leave laws that expand on the protections offered under FMLA. Where does Michigan stand when it comes to alternatives or additions to FMLA?
That’s a tricky question to answer, because Michigan’s Paid Medical Leave Act has gone through several changes. It was originally developed as a ballot initiative that would provide up to 72 hours of sick leave per year for eligible employees.
In 2018, the Michigan Legislature passed and amended the act, which bypassed the need for a vote, but reduced the amount of paid leave per year to 40 hours. It also exempted businesses with less than 50 employees from this leave policy.
In 2022, a judge voided those amendments, returning the law to the original terms outlined in the ballot initiative. Small businesses are no longer exempt, but are only required to provide 40 hours of paid leave rather than the full 72 hours.
These changes will come into effect on February 19, 2023, pending any further court rulings, so it’s important for your human resources department to be prepared.
Michigan Paid Medical Leave Act
So how does the Paid Medical Leave Act compare to FMLA in Michigan? As it currently stands, it’s smaller in scope, providing only 40 hours of leave vs. 12 workweeks.
However, this state law offers more benefits to employees. For one, it’s paid leave, with 1 hour accrued for every 35 hours of work. Second, the employee doesn’t have to work for a full year before becoming eligible: They can use leave as soon as they accrue it, although the employer can impose a 90-day waiting period for new employees.
Finally, the Paid Medical Leave Act covers more qualifying situations. For example, an employee can take leave for child care if their child’s school “has been closed by order of a public official due to a public health emergency.”
If they’re taking leave to care for a sick family member, this can include grandparents and siblings – relationships that aren’t covered under FMLA in Michigan.
They can also take leave to address needs arising from domestic violence or assault, such as medical or psychological care, or legal and relocation services.
Parental Leave for State Employees
When it comes to parental leave, many Michigan employees will be eligible for FMLA, which covers the birth or adoption of a child, or the placement of a child in foster care. Parents must take this leave within one year of the child’s birth or placement, and can only take intermittent leave with their employer’s approval.
State employees get additional benefits, and may be eligible for up to 12 weeks of paid leave after the birth of a child. There’s an exception for the “adoption of children related by blood or marriage or of a child over 6 years,” which are not covered.
State employees may be eligible for FMLA leave, paid parental leave, or both. If they’ve used up all 12 weeks of FMLA leave to care for a sick family member, for example, that doesn’t prevent them from taking paid parental leave under Michigan law.
If their leave of absence is covered by both family leave laws, however, they must take them at the same time, not one after the other.
Manage Your Leave Requests with Pulpstream
Employees may be eligible for 12 weeks of unpaid leave under FMLA in Michigan, as well as any state leave laws that apply to them. Since Michigan’s Paid Medical Leave Act has gone through several changes in recent years, it’s important for employers to stay informed about their obligations and ensure they remain compliant.
Pulpstream makes it easy to digitize your leave of absence process with a no-code rule engine to determine eligibility. Employees can self-service their leave request using an online portal and upload any supporting documentation that’s required.
Whether you offer your own paid leave program, or just want to meet your obligations under FMLA in Michigan, Pulpstream can take the strain off of your human resources department and simplify the leave of absence process for employees.
Request a demo today to see how it works!