FMLA 12-month period to be set on rolling basis starting Jan. 1

A policy change approved in June and going into effect Jan. 1 will adjust the time period used to determine the amount of leave available to an employee under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA).

FMLA guarantees eligible employees up to 12 weeks of job-protected leave for medical and family reasons. Qualifying circumstances include a serious health condition, caring for a family member with a serious health condition, certain situations stemming from the deployment of a family member for active duty military service, and the birth, adoption or foster placement of a child. The leave is unpaid, though employees are required to use applicable accrued paid time off while on FMLA.

Eligible employees are entitled to 12 weeks of family or medical leave every 12 months, but FMLA's provisions allow employers to define the 12-month period. Iowa State currently uses a calendar year method. Every Jan. 1, the bank of FMLA leave available to eligible employees has reset to 12 weeks.

Beginning Jan. 1, 2021, Iowa State's method for calculating the 12-month period will change and instead be set on a rolling basis. The time period will be based on the 12 months immediately prior to the first day an employee uses FMLA for a qualifying event.

Here are a couple of examples of how that will work:

  • An employee requests to begin FMLA leave on Feb. 1, 2021. Looking backward to Feb. 1, 2020, the employee has used no FMLA leave during the 12-month period. The employee would have the full 12 weeks of FMLA available for the leave beginning Feb. 1, 2021.
  • An employee requests to begin FMLA leave on Feb. 1, 2021. Looking backward to Feb. 1, 2020, the employee used four weeks of FMLA in April 2020 and four weeks in May 2020 -- a total of eight weeks during that 12-month period. On Feb. 1, 2021, the employee can take four weeks of FMLA, the 12-week entitlement minus the eight weeks already taken. Four additional weeks of FMLA leave would become available in April 2021, and another four weeks would be available in May 2021.

Employees who take FMLA between now and Dec. 31 will use whichever 12-month period -- the calendar year or the rolling 12-month look-back period -- benefits them more. Employees currently on FMLA leave will continue to be in a certified and approved status as outlined in their FMLA designation notice. 

"Prior to Workday, ISU did not have a centralized detailed timekeeping and time-off system, and therefore utilized a manual process to administer the FMLA program, requiring us to take the calendar year approach,” said Andrea Little, employee/labor relations director for university human resources (UHR). “We now have the systems and capabilities to provide for a process that is in line with best practices and more efficient and consistent for supervisors and employees.”

The revised policy and further information about FMLA are available online.

For questions regarding this change, contact UHR employee/labor relations at or 294-4800.