FMLA Does Not Need to Be a Four-Letter Word


These tips can help you complete FMLA paperwork quickly and accurately.

Fam Pract Manag. 2021 Jul-Aug;28(4):12-16.

Author disclosure: no relevant financial affiliations.

What is your reaction to the message that you have Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) paperwork on your desk? Did your day just get longer? Will your lunch break be shorter? Is your time between visits going to be filled with back and forth messages to gather all the information you need to complete the form? How is your mood? Did your staff apologize as they placed the paperwork on your desk? Maybe they just hid the form under your other faxes and tiptoed away quietly.

Although you may not be able to avoid FMLA forms entirely, you do not need to dread them. By familiarizing yourself with the questions asked and the purpose of the form, keeping your answers quick and concise, getting assistance from your office staff, obtaining patient input to ensure forms are completed correctly the first time, and keeping copies for future reference in the patient's record, the form completion and renewal process can be a breeze.


  • The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) allows eligible employees to take unpaid leave for family and medical reasons.

  • To qualify for leave, patients are required to provide their employer with a certification form from their physician or other health care provider.

  • To help you complete FMLA forms quickly and accurately, familiarize yourself with the questions, keep answers concise, involve your staff, and obtain patient input.


For some patients, the FMLA form is as important as direct patient care. The FMLA allows eligible employees to take unpaid leave for family and medical reasons (see “Qualifying reasons for leave under the FMLA”). During leave, their job is protected and health insurance coverage is continued.1,2

Employees must notify their employer that they plan to take FMLA leave according to established procedures within their place of work. The employer is required to notify employees whether they are eligible for leave within five business days of the request for leave. Not all employed persons are eligible for FMLA, depending on the size of the company and length of employment.3

The employer may require medical certification for pregnancy or serious health conditions.4 That medical certification is the FMLA form.


Twelve weeks of leave in a 12-month period for:

  • The birth of a child and care of the child within one year of birth,

  • Adoption or foster care placement and care of the child within one year of adoption or placement,

  • Care for a spouse, child, or parent who has a serious health condition,

  • The employee's own serious health condition that makes the employee unable to perform the essential functions of their job,

  • A qualifying exigency while the employee's spouse, child, or parent


Dr. Kantner is an associate professor in the Department of Family and Community Medicine at Penn State Hershey Medical Center and College of Medicine. She also serves as medical director for Penn State Health Harrisburg.

Author disclosure: no relevant financial affiliations.


show all references

1. History of the FMLA. National Partnership for Women & Families. Accessed May 28, 2021.

2. Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). U.S. Department of Labor. Accessed May 28, 2021.

3. Mayer G. The Family and Medical Leave Act: an overview. Congressional Research Service. Sept. 28, 2012. Accessed May 28, 2021.

4. FMLA – serious health condition. Office of Human Resources Management. Accessed May 28, 2021.


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