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Managing Intermittent FMLA Leave: When Relying on the Honor System Isn’t Enough

March 6, 2019

Since it was signed into law in 1993, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) has been an on-going challenge for HR professionals.  Simply put, it was designed to prevent employees from losing their jobs when forced to take time off due to their own serious health condition or that of a family member.  Actually administering the FMLA properly is where it can get tricky.  While federal regulations have attempted to close the loopholes that opened the potential for abuse and misappropriation of FMLA absences, navigating the guidelines can be challenging, and the documentation can seem cumbersome.  Without a doubt, FMLA has made a serious impact on the way employers view and administer absence management.  Therefore, having a solid leave program in place is absolutely essential.  It can help reduce risks, save money and minimize disruptions in the workplace.

66% of HR Professionals have reported having issues with chronic abuse of intermittent leave.

There is probably no task more cumbersome for HR Professionals than managing intermittent leave under FMLA.

Employer Challenges:

Although employers are growing more confident in understanding the FMLA, they still struggle with administering intermittent leave.  The vast majority of employers believe they are not capturing all the situations within their organizations that should be designated as FMLA.  Lack of training/knowledge of leave laws can lead to staffing issues, mismanagement and abuse and can have a significant impact on employee morale and productivity.

Intermittent FMLA leave is especially common for chronic medical conditions, psychological or mental conditions (i.e. depression, anxiety disorders, etc.), and conditions that sometimes result in incapacity (i.e. asthma, migraines, etc.).

Although administration of intermittent FMLA remains a challenge, there are ways employers can reduce abuse and manage the process more efficiently.

  1. Develop a sound Leave of Absence policy with established call-out procedures. Define the company’s processes while making sure the policy complies with FMLA and Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).  This can greatly reduce and prevent costly absences.
  2. Create solid administrative practices for confirming eligibility, tracking use and enforcing call-out procedures. Proper tracking is key to maintaining an organization’s policies and can also help uncover patterns or trends that could suggest abuse.
  3. Request certification from a physician. Certification is critical for intermittent leave. Make sure the certification includes a statement of medical necessity of leave and the likely duration and frequency.
  4. Require use of concurrent Paid Time Off. If you do not require use of concurrent leave, you may risk an employee using more than the allotted 12 weeks of leave.
  5. Manage and schedule leave to reduce disruption to the business. Ask employees to schedule leave so that it does not unduly disrupt business operations and work together to create a consistent schedule (if possible).

Remember, it all starts with an established policy. 

If it seems too daunting, don’t hesitate to seek help.  There are several outsourced solutions that can reduce staffing costs through a more efficient and automated process.  While effectively administering FMLA Intermittent Leave isn’t always easy, it is possible.  If done correctly, it can help employees when they need it most – while minimizing disruption and reducing abuse.

For more information, contact:
Christina Schneider
Sales Executive

Note: This communication is for informational purposes only. Although every reasonable effort is made to present current and accurate information, Oswald makes no guarantees of any kind and cannot be held liable for any outdated or incorrect information. View our communications policy.