Does Cold and Flu Qualify for FMLA? Sometimes…


The cold and flu season is upon us. When employees are sick, employers should encourage them to stay home in order to avoid spreading contagious germs, which could cause others to get sick. The question is, does cold and flu qualify for FMLA. The answer, sometimes it does.

FMLA regulations state that unless complications arise, the common cold and flu do not meet the definition of a serious health condition and do not qualify for FMLA leave. FMLA defines serious health condition as “an illness, injury, impairment, or physical or mental condition that involves:

  1. inpatient care in a hospital, hospice, or residential medical care facility; or
  2. continuing treatment by a health care provider.”

This leads to the question, what’s considered a “complication” that would warrant cold and flu to qualify for FMLA approval?

Per the US Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division, Question and Answer Section, regarding FMLA:

Question 1A: People on occasion will go to their doctor if their cold or flu lasts more than three days. The doctor may prescribe an antibiotic (which the patient may or may not fill) in case there is a bacterial infection. The regulations state that, ordinarily, unless complications arise, the common cold and flu are not serious health conditions for purposes of FMLA. Can a cold or the flu ever be a serious health condition for purposes of FMLA?


Answer 1A: Yes, the cold or flu may be a serious health condition for FMLA purposes, if the individual is incapacitated for more than three consecutive calendar days and receives continuing treatment by a health care provider, as defined in the regulations.

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