March 2, 2021


Family leave was a hot-button issue during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.

Nearly 15 million workers use the Family and Medical Leave Act each year, according to the National Partnership for Women & Families. And, with more than 15 percent of Americans – or 53 million people – contracting COVID-19 during 2020, the number of people who took some form of family leave was likely higher than average.

Parents were forced to use leave when their child’s school turned to virtual instruction with no childcare available. Employees also needed leave if a spouse or high-risk family member became infected with COVID-19 and needed care.

While the U.S. federal government passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act which expanded paid leave for FMLA, those benefits expired Dec. 31, 2020.

What does that mean for 2021?

FMLA Overview

FMLA provides eligible employees up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave per year. While a federal act requires employers to carry FMLA, according to the U.S. Department of Labor it only applies to:

  • Public agencies, including local, state and federal employers, along with local education agencies
  • Private sector employers who employ more than 50 employees for at least 20 weeks in the current or preceding calendar year

Usually, the employers that do not meet these requirements still have some form of unpaid leave program.

2019 Benchmarking Data

In Apex’s 2019 Indiana Employee Benefits Benchmarking report, we found that 20.1 percent of Indiana employers outsource their FMLA administration. FMLA, unfortunately, runs a high risk of employee abuse and incorrect administration. The result could mean employers unknowingly end up being over generous with leave —resulting in lost productivity.


FMLA data

2021 Importance

Employers had no way to prepare for a global pandemic that would lead to a significant increase in FMLA usage. But they can still better prepare for 2021.

To get through 2020, some Indiana employers began providing expanded leave to help accommodate employee needs. Other employers chose to provide a more flexible work at home strategy to enable employees to care for children or loved ones.

However, those options also run the risk of the leave being used improperly. In 2021, it’s important for employers to develop comprehensive policies and procedures to deal with employees being out of the workplace due to COVID. Organizations should train managers and supervisors in proper use of the procedures, as well as how to properly manage through leaves.

Do you want to see how your organization’s leave policies compares to other Indiana employers? You can discover that information by completing the 2021 Indiana Employee Benefits Benchmarking Survey.

Doing so will allow your organization to see how it stacks up against others in the state, including your competition.

To complete the 2021 Indiana Employee Benefits Benchmarking Survey, visit