Frequently Asked Questions: Family and Medical Leave Policy (FMLA), Sick Leave, and Short-Term Disability (STD)

This list of Frequently Asked Questions refers to Policy 631 in the Human Resources Policy Manual.

    FAQ for Employees

    Eligibility/Leave Entitlement
    Application Process
    Coordination of FML and Sick Leave/Short-Term Disability/Worker's Compensation
    Coordination of FMLA and Other Benefits
    Returning to Work

    Eligibility/Leave Entitlement

    FAQ: FMLA - Employees Elig

    What is Family and Medical Leave?

    Family and Medical Leave (FML) provides eligible employees with twelve (12) weeks of unpaid leave for most qualifying events. Employees may be covered under the University’s Short -Term Disability (STD) policy (Policy 404) if the leave is for their own serious health condition or pregnancy. For approved leaves for reasons other than the employee's own serious health condition or pregnancy (paternity, adoption, foster care and care of a family member with a serious health condition), employees may use up to five (5) sick days in a calendar year and must substitute unused PTO for the leave unless they notify their business administrator that they want to retain 50% of their PTO balance.

    Who is eligible for Family and Medical Leave?

    You are eligible for FML if you have been employed by the University for at least twelve (12) months and have worked at least 1,250 hours during the 12-month period immediately preceding the start of the leave. You must also be employed at a Penn worksite where 50 or more employees are employed by the University within 75 miles of that worksite.

    How is the 12-month period determined?

    The 12-month period will be a rolling 12-month period measured backward from the date FML commences.

    Do the 1,250 hours include paid leave or other absences from work?

    No, the 1,250 hour requirement only includes time that counts towards "hours worked". So, for example, the 1,250 hours would not include:

    • paid or unpaid vacation and sick time
    • paid holidays, or
    • previous periods of FML leave.

    How much paid time off am I entitled to for pregnancy?

    Disability resulting from pregnancy is treated like other disabilities with respect to paid leave time. The normal period of disability from the date of delivery is a maximum of eight (8) weeks or the length of time stipulated to be medically necessary by the employee's physician.

    Employees who elect to remain on FMLA beyond the disability period will be paid their remaining PTO unless they elect to retain it. The balance of their leave will be unpaid.

    I began working for Penn two months ago. Prior to my current position, I worked at Pennsylvania Hospital for eight years. Am I eligible for Family Medical Leave (FML)?

    To be eligible for FML benefits, an employee must have been employed by the University for at least 12 months and have worked for at least 1,250 hours during the 12-month period immediately preceding the start of the leave. The employee must also meet specified family and/or medical reasons as outlined in the Family and Medical Leave policy to be qualified for the leave. Since Pennsylvania Hospital, Presbyterian Medical Center, the Clinical Practices of the University of Pennsylvania and Clinical Care Associates are all subsidiaries and components of the Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania, an employee's work time at these institutions or any other subsidiary or component of the Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania counts toward determining eligibility for FML.

    I would like to take FML for an elective surgery. Is this allowed?

    Some elective surgeries are allowed under the FML policy depending on the type of procedure and the employee's medical history. You should have your doctor complete the Physician Certification and submit it to the FMLA Administrator for review. The certification must specify why the surgery is medically necessary.

    What is a serious health condition?

    A serious health condition is defined as an illness, injury, impairment, or a physical or mental condition that involves:

    • Inpatient care in a hospital, hospice or residential medical care facility, or any subsequent treatment in connection with such inpatient care; or
    • Any period of incapacity requiring absence from work for more than three (3) calendar days AND that involves continuing treatment by a health care provider; or
    • Continuing treatment by a health care provider for a chronic or long-term health condition that is incurable or which, if left untreated, would likely result in a period of incapacity of more than three (3) days.

    For what reasons can I use FML?

    Eligible employees can use FML for the following reasons:

    • The employee's serious health condition
    • The birth and care of the employee's child
    • Placement with the employee of a child for adoption or foster care, or
    • Care of the employee's spouse, child (under age 18 or disabled) or parent with a serious health condition
    • Because of a "qualifying exigency" relating to the active-duty status or call to active-duty in the armed forces of a spouse, son, daughter, or parent of the employee, including those contingencies set forth in the applicable regulations, summarized as follows:
      • short-notice deployment;
      • military events and related activities;
      • to arrange for childcare, or provide childcare on an urgent basis, or for school activities;
      • to make financial or legal arrangements;
      • to attend counseling;
      • to spend time with the service member while on short-term leave;
      • for post-deployment activities;
      • for other activities in accordance with the regulations.
    • Because care is required for a family member or next of kin who is a member of the armed forces, including a member of the National Guard or Reserves, who is undergoing medical treatment, recuperation, or therapy, or is otherwise in outpatient status on the temporary disability retired list, for a serious injury or illness.

    Can leave be taken to care for children of any age?

    Non-military FML is only available to care for a child under the age of eighteen (18), or a child over the age of 18 with a disability where the child is unable to perform activities of daily living without assistance.

    However, the new FMLA regulations contain special definitions for son and daughter for both of the military leave provisions. For qualifying exigency leave, an eligible employee may take leave for his or her son or daughter on active duty or call to active duty status which is defined as the employee's biological, adopted, foster child, stepchild, legal ward, or child for whom the employee stood in loco parentis, who is of any age.

    Under the FMLA, for military caregiver leave, a parent of a covered service member means a covered service member's biological, adoptive, step or foster father or mother, or any other individual who stood in loco parentis to the covered service member. This term does not include parents "in law."

    Can leave for childbirth or adoption be taken at any time?

    No. That leave must be taken within twelve (12) months after the birth or placement for adoption or foster care. In some instances, the leave may start before the birth or placement for adoption, such as leave for pre-natal care or for home studies in connection with adoption.

    My wife and I are employees of the University and are expecting the birth of our child. Can both of us apply for a leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act?

    According to Penn's FML policy, where both parents are employed by the University, they are each entitled to 12 weeks of FML for the birth and care of their newborn child, or for the care and placement of a child for adoption or foster care. FMLA applies equally to male and female employees.

    Application Process

    FAQ: FMLA - Employees Apply

    How much notice do I have to give my supervisor before I go out on FML?

    Employees seeking FML are required to provide their supervisors and the Division of Human Resources with at least thirty (30) days WRITTEN notice of the proposed leave. Click here for the FML/STD request form. Where advance notice is not possible, such as in the event of a medical emergency, notice should be given as soon as possible. Failure to give advance notice, where foreseeable, may delay or postpone the commencement of the leave.

    How long do I have to obtain the medical certification form from a health care provider?

    The medical certification must be provided within twenty (20) calendar days of the University's request. Employees should be aware that in certain circumstances, the University may require re-certification of a medical condition. In addition, employees may be required to report on when they intend to return to work. Whenever an employee learns of a change in the anticipated length of a FML, the employee must notify the University within two (2) business days of knowing of the change.

    I was out of the workplace for more than three days due to an FML-related reason, but do not want this time to count against my 12 weeks of FML. Can I opt out of using this time?

    You may not opt out of using your FML time. Employees who are out of the workplace for three (3) consecutive days will receive a letter from their department stating that their time out of the office will be provisionally designated as FML.

    What proof must I submit to validate my request for Family Medical Leave?

    Medical certification from a health care provider will be required if FML is based on a serious health condition of an employee or family member. The University also requires medical certification/birth certificate if the FML is due to the birth of a child. Additionally, an "Intent to Adopt" form is required if the FML is for the placement of a child for adoption. Failure to provide such certification may result in a delay or denial of the employee's leave. Please contact your supervisor or click here to download the Short-Term Disability/Family and Medical Leave Request and Physician's Certification forms.

    Coordination of FML and Sick Leave/Short-Term Disability/Worker's Compensation

    FAQ: FMLA - Employees Coordination

    If I'm injured on the job and my doctor recommends that I stay home from work for a month, will I have to use my accrued sick time? Would the job-related injury count against my FML entitlement?

    Work-related injuries or illnesses are handled by the Office of Risk Management. If approved, Worker's Compensation payments will typically begin  after the 7th calendar day of absence (the waiting period). During the waiting period, the employee's sick leave may be used (or paid time off, only in the event there is insufficient sick time). Employees who are out of the workplace due to a work-related injury or illness may be required to concurrently use benefits under the Family Medical Leave policy if the reason for the absence is due to a qualifying illness or injury.

    Will I be paid during my FML?

    According to University policy, if employees take FML because of their own serious health condition or pregnancy, they may be covered under the University's Short-Term Disability (STD) policy (Policy 404). For reasons other than the employee's own serious health condition or pregnancy (paternity, adoption, foster care and care of a family member with a serious health condition), employees may use up to five (5) sick days in a calendar year for approved leaves and they must substitute unused PTO for the leave unless they notify their business administrator that they want to retain 50% of their PTO balance. See the Paid Time Off policy for details.

    What happens if my FML certification period expires, but I have not recovered sufficiently to return to work?

    In the event that the leave certification period stipulated by your physician and approved by the FMLA Administrator expires and you are still unable to return to work due to your own serious health condition, you must re-certify your leave by submitting an updated certification or signed doctor’s note on his/her letterhead. The FMLA Administrator will inform you and your department of the status of the leave.

    When will I be covered under the Short-term Disability policy?

    Full time staff members, Grade 28 and below, will be covered under the University’s Short-term Disability (STD) policy on the first day of the month following employment. STD applies only in the case of an approved continuous leave of 10 or more work days for an employee’s own serious health condition or pregnancy. For the first 10 days, employees will use any available sick time or PTO in that order.

    How will I be paid during my leave for my own serious health condition or pregnancy?

    Full time staff members, Grade 28 and below, and Bands A, B, C and D who are approved for leave for their own serious health condition or pregnancy will use sick time or PTO for the first ten (10) days. After that, they will receive 100% of base pay for up to the next six (6) weeks. If the disability period has been approved for longer than eight (8) weeks, they will be paid 75% of base salary up to a maximum of eighteen (18) additional weeks. Note that the disability period for pregnancy is deemed to be eight (8) weeks after delivery. Employees who are approved for FML beyond the disability period (eg. care of newborn) will use PTO or will be unpaid.

    What happens to my sick day and STD balances now that this new STD policy is in place?

    You will retain your sick day balance as of 7/1/2016. Those days will remain in your bank to be used as needed. You will not accrue any new sick days, until your current balance drops below 24 days.

    You will retain your STD balances as of 7/1/2016 until 6/30/2018. During this time, these days will be used to substitute 100% of pay for 75% of pay during weeks 9 – 26 of any approved STD leave.

    Coordination of FMLA and Other Benefits

    FAQ: FMLA - Employees Benefits

    If I am out on FML does my health insurance coverage end?

    During any FML, the University will maintain the employee's medical, dental, vision, life and disability insurance coverage under the same conditions as if the employee had been continuously employed during the entire leave period. The University and the employee will each continue to pay their portion of the benefit costs. If the FML is unpaid for any period of time, his/her benefit deductions will build up in a suspense account. As soon as the employee receives his/her first check the benefit deductions that have built up in suspense will be subtracted from that account. In some instances, the University may recover premiums it paid to maintain health coverage for an employee who fails to return to work from FMLA.

    How will going out on a FML affect my retirement plan?

    Being out on a paid FML does not affect your retirement plan contributions or the University's contribution to your retirement plan. If the FML is unpaid and you participate in the Retirement Allowance Plan, the FML period will still count towards benefit accrual and vesting. However,  if your FML is unpaid and you participate in the University of Pennsylvania Basic Plan, the University of Pennsylvania Matching Plan and/or the Supplemental Retirement Annuity Plan of the University of Pennsylvania your retirement plan contributions will cease.

    Returning to Work

    FAQ: FMLA - Employees Returning

    What is my responsibility upon returning to work from FML?

    If FML is due to your own serious health condition or pregnancy, you must present a note from your physician stating that you are able to return to work. The note must specify the date that you are released to return and must list any physical or other restrictions if applicable. If the note contains restrictions lasting more than one (1) week, a copy must be sent to Patrice D. Miller, Associate Director, in the Office of Affirmative Action and Equal Opportunity Programs, 3600 Chestnut Street, Sansom Place East, Suite # 228, Philadelphia, PA  19104-6106.

    I had a baby and my doctor agreed to release me to return to work after only three (3) weeks. I would like to take the remainder of my FML later when things are slower at work. Will I be paid for the time off if I take it later?

    Under the FML policy, you may take the remainder of your leave up to 12 months from the baby's birth, but you will only be paid for the time that you have accumulated under the University's Paid Time Off policy. Since you are no longer disabled, you will not be covered under the University's sick leave or short-term disability policies.

    I have been approved for a continuous leave for my own serious health condition. I am feeling much better than I expected, although my doctor wants me to rest. Can I work from home?

    No, employees who have been approved for a continuous leave for their own serious health condition should not be working from any location, including the home, and will be required to provide a return to work notice from their physician before resuming work activities.

    Is my current position within my department guaranteed to be there when I return from medical leave?

    Normally, employees returning from medical leave will be reinstated to the same or an equivalent position, with equivalent pay, benefits, and other terms and conditions of employment. Failure to return to work once all paid leave and unpaid FML have been exhausted may result in termination of employment. However, at times, departments, schools, and/or centers may restructure due to changing business and operational needs and the need to continually enhance programs and services. These restructuring initiatives may result in position discontinuations, even positions held by employees out on FML or other types of leaves. If staff members on FML have their position discontinued, they will be given at least thirty (30) days written notice of the position discontinuation and will be informed of any applicable benefits they may be eligible to receive under the Position Discontinuation and Staff Transition Program.

    FAQ for Supervisors

    FAQ: FMLA - Supervisors

    What responsibilities do I have for informing my staff regarding FML?

    When a staff member has proposed a leave, notifies the supervisor of a qualifying event, or has been out sick for more than three (3) consecutive days, the supervisor is expected to send a provisional letter to the employee with a copy of the Family and Medical Leave Policy and forms. The employer is responsible for designating FML within five (5) business days by sending a provisional letter. Click here for sample provisional letters.

    I've received notice from an employee that he/she will be going on Family Medical Leave for his/her own serious health condition. How should I pay the employee during his/her medical leave?

    • Weekly Paid Staff

      • You must pay out sick and PTO in that order for the first ten (10) days. After that you should end the distribution line, but don’t change the employee’s status. The FMLA Administrator will pay the employee under the STD policy for the balance of the approved medical leave.        
      • If the employee is approved for STD for longer than 8 weeks, the FMLA Administrator will lower the employee’s hourly rate to reflect 75% of pay. If an employee has a STD balance as of 7/1/2016, these STD days will be used during weeks 9 through 26 so that the employee will receive 100% of pay. Notes that all STD balances will expire on 6/30/2018.
      • In the case of pregnancy, the employee should use PTO after the disability period ends unless she notifies you that she would like to retain it and go unpaid.
      • The Benefits Office will stop the accruals of sick and PTO after the first ten (10) days and will enter the STD time each week until the approved period of disability ends.
    • Monthly Paid Staff and Faculty

      • You must reduce the employee’s sick or, PTO days, in that order, for the first ten (10) days of disability. Do not change the employee’s status.
      • The FMLA Administrator will end the department’s distribution line on the date that the employee has been out more than 10 days, enter a new distribution line to reflect the STD pay, and email the department’s Business Administrator each month before payroll runs, to state the dates of the STD payment for each employee.
      • If the employee is approved for STD for longer than eight (8) weeks, the FMLA Administrator will change the employee’s distribution line to reflect 75% of pay beginning in week 9. If an employee has a STD balance as of 6/30/2016, these STD days will be used during weeks 9 through 26 so that the employee will receive 100% of pay. Notes that all STD balances will expire on 6/30/2018.
      • If an employee uses sick and PTO for the first 10 days and has not yet been approved for leave, it is up to your department’s discretion whether or not to end the distribution line.
        • If the distribution line is left active and the employee is entitled to STD pay, the Benefits Office will reallocate funds from the STD budget to the department’s budget.        
        • If the department’s distribution line is ended and the employee is entitled to STD pay, the Benefits Office will issue a late pay.        

    What responsibilities do I have regarding informing the FMLA Administrator about an employee's FML?

    When a staff member has proposed a leave, notifies the supervisor of a qualifying event, or has been out sick for more than three (3) consecutive days, the supervisor is expected to:

    • Send a copy of the provisional letter and Leave Request Form with the time balances to the Benefits Office
    • Notify the Benefits Office upon the employee's return to work