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Managing Intermittent Leave & Medical Leave of Absences

intermittent leave

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.

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Intermittent Leave Meaning: 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 receive approval after recently given birth, for serious medical conditions, or while caring for a family member with a serious medical condition. Once the leave duration is over, the employee must return to the same job or a similar position, and maintain all employment and health benefits.

Like other types of regulated unpaid time off, 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. 

Intermittent FMLA Paperwork: How Do You Complete it?

Applying for intermittent leave can be a complicated process. For this reason, it’s especially vital that all employers are aware of updated requirements and guidelines. Employees should have a complete understanding of what the application entails and which requests can receive approval.

Step 1: Determine Eligibility to Apply for Intermittent Leave

Employees can apply for FMLA intermittent leave 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 can also 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. A medical certification from a health care provider is usually necessary.
  • If you have a serious health condition that is affecting your ability to perform one or more of your essential duties. It is also a requirement to provide corresponding certifications.
  • 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 Intermittent FMLA Paperwork

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 regional DOL office to obtain an FMLA form.

Step 3: Employer and Employee Complete Intermittent FMLA Paperwork

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

After the employers finish, the employee must complete Section 2 of the form. If an employee is applying as a caregiver they may need to provide medical documentation for their family member’s 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 it from their employer. Additionally, they should provide any information about any medical conditions in the form. This could include the type of condition, prescribed medications, side effects that may affect their ability to work, and medical treatment options. 

Step 5: Employer Approves Intermittent FMLA Paperwork

After including all medical information, the employer should go over the form for a full review. If all information is complete and conditions are met, the request can be sent for approval.

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Intermittent FMLA Guidelines

Aside from the aforementioned procedures, there are various rules and guidelines 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. They can then and design the 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. For example, say an employee develops a serious health condition requiring hospitalization during the second week of a holiday.  That week of absence falls under FMLA leave rather than as vacation leave.
  • Wherever possible, employees must consult with employers to schedule medical appointments at a time that does not impact 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. Additionally, the employee must be able to return to 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. 
  • To classify as a serious medical condition, employees must be absent due to incapacity for a minimum of three full, consecutive calendar days. Also, they must have 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.

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Can an Employer Deny FMLA Intermittent Leave?

For a company, FMLA intermittent leave can have a serious effect on productivity and scheduling. Because of this, 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 manage processes efficiently, HR managers must take note of FMLA regulations and revisions. 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 procedures while reporting an absence as well as while fulfilling all FMLA requirements when applying.

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Written by Cat Symonds; Edited by Tanya Lesiuk

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