QUESTION

We can’t leave this position unfilled for 12 weeks. What can we do?

SHORT ANSWER
Some employers address the gap with temporary employees.  Others will restructure existing positions to cover all necessary tasks during the period of leave. 
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An employee who is eligible for FMLA leave is entitled to return restored to the same or equivalent job with equivalent pay, benefits, and other terms and conditions of employment.  However, this doesn’t mean your business needs to stop operations for the period of leave. Some employers address the gap with temporary employees.  Others will restructure existing positions to cover all necessary tasks during the period of leave.  If your work site is large enough, sometime filling the position makes sense as long as there will be a comparable position onsite that will be available once the employee returns from leave.