The Employers and Employees Guide to FMLA Intermittent Leave

What is FMLA intermittent leave, and how does it work?

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) was designed to give employees up to 12 weeks of employment-protected leave for severe health crises, childbirth, and providing care for immediate family members suffering from serious health conditions. When medically essential, qualified employees can take the allowed FMLA absences at once or in daily increments. If an employee takes FMLA leaves in segments, it is commonly known as FMLA intermittent leave. It’s important to note an employee can only “elect” intermittent leave in the case of baby bonding/adoption. Otherwise, the type of leave is determined by the medical certificate from the doctor.

What are the eligibility requirements for intermittent FMLA?

  • The intermittent FMLA leave seems to be inevitable.
  • The absence is focused on the employee’s medical needs or recovery plan.
  • An employee is in a caregiving role, providing care to a spouse, child,  parent, relative, or veteran.


In order to review the FMLA intermittent leave eligibility, an employee needs to provide sufficient proof with the required paperwork to their employer justifying their absence. However, it’s also important to note that requesting intermittent leave in FMLA comes with certain guidelines which are required to be followed. For example, individuals who plan to take FMLA intermittent leave and whose reason is known in advance must give a 30-day notice. If a 30-day notice cannot be provided, the employee should offer as much advance notice as possible. During an emergency, the employee must notify the employer as soon as possible. An employer can transfer an employee who applies for FMLA intermittent leave to an “available alternative post” for a short period if the alternate role is more equipped to satisfy the employee’s recurrent leave requirements.

What are the guidelines for FMLA intermittent leave?

Both an employee and an employer need to follow the rules and regulations listed below:

  • An employee needs to follow the call-in protocols to register for absences.
  • Employers can contact the employees’ doctor’s office for clarification and authentication only.
  • An employer may ask for a new medical certificate from an employee after six months or if it expires.
  • Employers may also ask for a second or third doctor’s opinion from the employee. 
  • Employers can only ask for a reassessment once every 30 days for serious medical conditions. The reassessment is only applicable regarding the employee’s absences or if there’s a query about the submitted leave details. 
  • Employers must record the overall amount of absences for the FMLA intermittent leave along with the estimations provided by employees or their doctors. 
  • An employer cannot tell an employee that FMLA is not accessible until the employee has used up all of their sick, holiday, or compensated time off.

How is an intermittent FMLA leave calculated?

When an employee takes an intermittent FMLA leave, the time spent is deducted from their authorized time of FMLA leave. If the time off is less than one hour, employers must keep records for FMLA leave in amounts no longer than the shortest duration utilized for any other type of leave. 

Employees are allowed to take up to 26 weeks of FMLA absence in 12 months to attend to a family member who has become sick or injured while serving in the military. 

How can intermittent leave be applied during pregnancy?

FMLA intermittent leave can also be used for pregnancy-related purposes, such as: 

  • Medical check-ups throughout pregnancy 
  • Inability to function due to morning sickness 
  • Medically mandated bed rest ordered by a healthcare professional

 

Moreover, FMLA allows employees to take intermittent leave for childbirth, placing a child in foster care, or for adoption purposes. Employees can only take intermittent leaves for these reasons after the approval of their employer. However, it should be noted that intermittent leave must be taken within 12 months after a child’s birth or placement.

What problems do employers face as a result of intermittent leave?

It’s vital for both the employer and the employee to make an attempt to minimize FMLA errors or any miscommunication since intermittent leaves often cause interruptions in organizational workflow. On the employer’s side, a lack of communication is a significant factor in infringement in terms of violating their employees’ rights. Employers must provide notice after the leave has been used up or if the employee has run out of time. 

Companies are better protected from infringement of their rights when duties are clearly communicated. Employers must also know when a situation qualifies for an FMLA-protected absence. Misclassifications can lead to expensive court judgments and financial compensation. Finally, companies are prohibited from penalizing employees who take covered FMLA leave. As a result, FMLA retribution cases can cost companies tens of thousands of dollars.

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