There is probably no task more cumbersome for HR professionals than managing intermittent leave under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Intermittent leave allows qualified employees to take FMLA leave in small blocks of time (such as one hour) versus one block of 12 weeks.
Although intermittent leave can benefit employees who need time off work for their own health condition or to help with another family member's serious health condition, it can create burdens and adversity for employers if it isn't managed appropriately. The following administrative strategies tend to help employers manage intermittent leave more effectively.
1. Require medical certification.
You have the right to determine that intermittent leave is medically necessary. You can require medical certification to be submitted in order to make this determination and request multiple medical opinions. Doing so gives you some control over the situation and helps you understand the frequency and duration of intermittent leave needed by the employee.
2. Ask for recertification.
Requiring employees to recertify their leave when the condition changes or according to a certain period (such as every 6 months or annually) helps keep employees honest and makes sure you stay knowledgeable about the condition's status and any changes needed for the leave.
3. Have employees use paid leave concurrently with FMLA leave.
Requiring use of concurrent paid leave, disability, etc. curbs the adverse effects of excessive absenteeism. If you don't require use of concurrent leave, you may risk an employee using more than the allotted 12 weeks of leave provided under FMLA.
4. Use a rolling 12-month period to calculate FMLA leave.
Calculating FMLA leave on a calendar 12-month basis can lead to employees taking back-to-back leave and potentially provides 24 weeks or 6 months of FMLA to an employee. Conversely, calculating FMLA on a rolling 12-month period can prevent back-to-back leave.
5. Accommodate the employee to reduce disruptions.
You may assign an employee to an alternative position with equivalent pay and benefits to better accommodate intermittent leave. You may also work with them to establish an intermittent leave schedule that reduces the leave's disruptions to your business operations. Remember, it's completely legal to request that the employee make a reasonable effort not to disrupt your business operations.
6. Establish guidelines for call-offs.
Call-offs can disrupt business, so provide requirements that employees must call in before they are absent if they are going to be using FMLA leave. You may also request that employees provide notice of unforeseeable leave as soon as practicable.
7. Track leave and absences.
You may request recertification from health care providers when you notice a pattern of absences which could suggest that an employee is abusing intermittent leave. Also, be aware that not tracking FMLA may lead you to provide more than the required amount of leave. Make sure nothing goes uncounted, and if you don't have the time to track it, consider outsourcing FMLA.
While these strategies won't necessarily reduce the number of employees using FMLA leave, they will typically help your organization avoid the costly consequences of mismanaged intermittent FMLA leave.
Please note that by providing you with research information that may be contained in this article, ERC is not providing a qualified legal opinion. As such, research information that ERC provides to its members should not be relied upon or considered a substitute for legal advice. The information that we provide is for general employer use and not necessarily for individual application.