Does PTO Accrue During FMLA? | The Scoop

Does PTO Accrue During FMLA? 

Say you have a PTO (paid time off) accrual policy where employees earn hours throughout the year. One of your employees goes on maternity leave, a type of Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)-covered leave. She’s gone for 12 weeks. Does PTO accrue during FMLA?

Yes, no, maybe so? In most cases, accruing PTO while on FMLA is up to you. Well, your company policy, that is. We’ve got the scoop below. Read on to learn:

  • What are the FMLA rules?
  • How does PTO accrual work?
  • Does PTO accrue during FMLA?

What are the FMLA rules?

The Family and Medical Leave Act is a federal law that requires employers to give workers job-protected unpaid time off for qualifying reasons. 

Employees can receive up to 12 weeks per year for:

  • Parental leave (birth of a child, adoption, or foster care placement)
  • Serious health condition (self, child, spouse, or parent)
  • A situation relating to military deployment (spouse, child, or parent)

An employee can take continuous or intermittent leave under the FMLA. This means the employee can use up all available time at once or spread them out throughout the year if medically necessary. 

You must provide FMLA to your employees if you have 50 or more employees within 75 miles in 20 or more workweeks in the current or previous year. FMLA also applies to integrated or joint employers with a combined number of 50 or more employees. 

Again, FMLA is unpaid time off from work. However, some states have paid family leave laws that require employers to give employees paid time off from work. And, employers can decide to provide paid FMLA leave if they’re in a state without paid leave laws. 

Have more questions about the FMLA and other workplace laws?

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How does PTO accrual work?

Decide to give employees paid time off? Paid time off lets employees receive their regular pay while away from work. Employees can typically use PTO for things like vacation, sickness, or personal time.  

If you do opt to give your team paid time off, you can either:

  • Give employees a lump sum at the beginning of the year
  • Implement a PTO accrual system

Unlike lump-sum paid time off, employees earn time off hours throughout the year under a PTO accrual system. An employee may earn a certain amount of PTO each day, week, pay period, etc. For example, an employee may earn two hours of PTO every two weeks, or per 80 hours of work. 

Does PTO accrue during FMLA? 

So, on to the question your employees want to know: Do you accrue PTO while on FMLA? Again, it depends. 

Generally, PTO accruing during FMLA is up to your company policy. You can decide whether accrual continues while an employee is on paid leave or not. Likewise, you can decide whether accrual continues while an employee is on unpaid leave or not. Whatever you decide and put in your policy, you must apply it consistently. 

For example, you might let employees accrue PTO on:

  • Paid leave only
  • Paid leave and unpaid leave 
  • Hours actually worked 

So, is FMLA leave paid or unpaid leave? If you offer paid FMLA and let employees accrue PTO on paid leave, PTO accrues on FMLA. If you offer unpaid FMLA and let employees accrue PTO only on paid leave, PTO does not accrue on FMLA…

But! Keep in mind that FMLA leave is considered paid if the employee continues receiving paid benefits, like health insurance, while on it. 

Your state or locality may have stricter laws surrounding paid and unpaid time off from work. Check with your state for more information.

Accruing PTO while on FMLA: Tips

When it comes to accruing PTO while on FMLA, here are some tips to keep in mind:

  • Create a detailed policy outlining your rules surrounding PTO accrual and FMLA leave.
  • Keep your rules consistent—if you let employees accrue PTO on paid leave, you must let them accrue PTO on paid FMLA leave.
  • You can require employees to use up their accrued PTO while on FMLA.
  • FMLA leave is considered paid leave if the employee receives benefits (e.g., health insurance) while away.
  • You cannot require employees to use up PTO if they are on paid FMLA, but you can let them choose to do so.
  • Consult your state for more information on their rules (if any) surrounding PTO accrual and FMLA. 
  • Talk with a small business lawyer for more information.
This is not intended as legal advice; for more information, please click here.

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