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intermittent leave

Managing Intermittent Leave & Medical Leave of Absences

Requesting an intermittent leave of absence can be a complicated process for employers and employees alike. Applications require a lot of detail and supporting evidence in most cases. In addition, intermittent FMLA (Family & Medical Act) guidelines are regularly updated which makes it hard to keep on top of current FMLA regulations and requirements.

This post will focus on managing intermittent leave, including what employers must request from employees to validate their requests, what the eligibility criteria is for granting leave for injury or illness, and what best practices are advised for administering family and medical leave.


What is an Intermittent Leave of Absence?

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is a program regulated by the United States Department of Labor (DOL) that allows employees covered by the Act to take an unpaid, medical leave of absence from their jobs. 

The FMLA allows qualified employees to take 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave per year for medical reasons or to care for sick family members. Employee leaves can be granted if you have recently given birth, if you have a serious medical condition, or if you are caring for a family member with a serious medical condition. Once the leave duration has ended, the employee is entitled to return to the same job or a similar position, and they maintain all employment and health benefits.

There are certain requirements that must be met before an employee can apply for an intermittent leave of absence. Firstly, the employee must have worked for the employer for at least 12 months. They must also have worked at least 1,250 hours for the employer in the 12 months immediately preceding the leave. 

How Do You Complete an FMLA for Intermittent Leave?

Applying for intermittent leave can be a complicated process and it’s vital that all employers are aware of updated requirements and guidelines, and all employees understand what the application entails so their request can be validated and approved.

Step 1: Determine your FMLA eligibility. 

FMLA intermittent leave is granted for the following reasons:

  • To take care of a child. This includes time for bonding with a newborn baby, with a newly adopted child, or with a recently placed foster child. Employees are also entitled to take FMLA leave in the event of a complicated pregnancy.
  • To care for a sick family member. This includes caring for a spouse, parent or child with a serious health condition. Medical certification from a health care provider is usually requested.
  • If you have a serious health condition that is affecting your ability to perform one or more of your essential duties. Certifications are also required.
  • A qualifying exigent situation in the event a spouse, child or parent is on active duty service (such as short-notice deployment, military events and related activities).

Step 2: Download an FMLA form.

The intermittent FMLA form can be downloaded from the Department of Labor’s FMLA website. Select the form that best fits your circumstances:

  • WH-380-E form if you are requesting FMLA leave due to a personal medical condition.
  • WH-380-F form if you are caring for a family member with a serious medical condition.
  • WH-384 form if you are requesting FMLA leave under the active duty “qualifying exigency” provision.

You can also call the Department of Labor (DOL) directly or visit a DOL office in your region to obtain an FMLA form.

Step 3: Employer and employee complete the form

Employees must ask their employer to complete Section 1 of the form. Requested information includes name, job description, work schedule, and job functions. 

Once this has been done, the employee must complete Section 2 of the form. If an employee is applying as a caregiver they may need to provide supporting medical documentation for their family member with a serious health condition.

Step 4: Employee meets with a healthcare provider

Employees must then take their form to their healthcare provider within 15 days of receiving the form back from their employer. Information about any medical conditions is requested here. This could include type of condition, prescribed medications, side effects which may affect their ability to work, and medical treatment options. 

Step 5: Return completed FMLA to the employer

Once all medical information has been provided, the form must be returned to the employer for a full review. If all information is complete and conditions have been met, the request will be sent for approval.

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What Are The Rules for Intermittent FMLA?

Aside from the aforementioned, there are various rules and updated guidelines that must be followed to ensure the validity of requests. These rules also help guide HR departments so that they are able to efficiently manage and monitor all requests and design best practices for administering intermittent leaves.

  • Eligibility is not automatic and organizations can dispute suspicious employee claims.
  • Employees can take up to 26 weeks of unpaid FMLA leave in each 12-month period to care for family members who suffered a serious injury or illness related to military service.
  • Families of National Guard and Reserve employees on active duty can take up to 12 weeks of job-protected FMLA leave per year. 
  • Leave can be designated retroactively so, for example, if an employee develops a serious health condition requiring hospitalization during the second week of a holiday, that week should be covered by FMLA leave instead of being taken as vacation leave.
  • Wherever possible, employees must consult with employers to schedule medical appointments at a time that has the least impact on operations.
  • Companies can temporarily transfer an employee on intermittent leave to minimize the effect of that person’s absence on overall operations. Pay and benefits must remain the same and the employee must be reinstated in their original position once the intermittent leave period’s over.
  • Companies can lay off, discipline and terminate those employees who violate company policies or perform poorly whilst on leave. 
  • In order to be defined as a serious medical condition, employees must be absent due to incapacity for a minimum of three full, consecutive calendar days and they must have made at least two related visits to a health care provider within 30 days of the period of incapacity.
  • Employees who take intermittent FMLA leave must follow the employer’s regular call-in procedures for reporting an absence.


Can an Employer Deny FMLA Intermittent leave?

For a company, FMLA intermittent leave can have a serious effect on productivity and scheduling, so it is vital for HR departments to have clear management guidelines to prevent any potential bogus claims. 

Although employers cannot, strictly speaking, deny an intermittent Family & Medical Act leave request unless, on justified grounds, the newly updated rules can enable HR departments to make direct contact with employee health care providers to clarify and verify medical reasons for requesting leave. 

To ensure processes are managed efficiently, HR managers must take note of revised FMLA regulations. In addition, it’s crucial to perform regular audits to ensure policies and employee handbooks are up to date, and regularly check the validity of internal procedures for managing intermittent medical leave. Employees, in turn, must follow employer intermittent FMLA call in procedures for reporting an absence as well as fulfilling all FMLA requirements when applying.

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Written by Cat Symonds; Edited by Tanya Lesiuk

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