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Intermittent Leave: What is it? How do you Calculate it?

Manage intermittent leave like a pro with our comprehensive guide. Learn about eligibility, calculations, and best practices to ensure compliance and support your workforce.

Hiring and Growth

Intermittent leave is an important yet often misunderstood aspect of employee benefits.

For HR managers, understanding and effectively managing intermittent leave is essential to maintaining compliance and supporting workforce well-being.

This article aims to provide a thorough breakdown of intermittent leave, detailing what it is, how it works, and the responsibilities of employers.

By the end, you'll be equipped with the knowledge and tools to handle this benefit effectively, ensuring both legal compliance and employee satisfaction

What is Intermittent leave?

Intermittent FMLA leave allows employees to take leave in smaller block increments rather than a continuous period to manage qualifying medical reasons or care for family members

  • Managers should be well-trained on company FMLA (Family and Medical Leave Act) policies and how to handle leave requests to prevent interference and retaliation claims
  • Employers should obtain complete medical certifications and set clear expectations with employees before approving intermittent leave
  • Employers have the right to ask employees why they cannot report to work, but should be sensitive to privacy concerns
  • Technology solutions that automate leave requests, absence tracking, and integrate with HRIS systems can help employers manage the high volume of intermittent leave, ensure compliance, and streamline absence management
  • Employers must grant eligible employees up to 12 weeks of leave per year when supported by medical certification from a health care provider while maintaining the employee's health benefits and job protection during the leave period.

Who is Eligible for Intermittent leave requests?

First, FMLA only applies to employers with 50+ employees. so, unfortunately, smaller corporations won't be eligible.

In addition, to be an eligible employee, you need to have worked 1250 hours within a 12 month period before the start of your intermittent leave.

While you need to have worked for at least 12 months for your employer, you do not need to work these months consecutively.

It is worth noting, that sick leave, vacation hours, and paid time off (PTO) do not count toward the 1250 hours (with exception to flight crew). In other words, only the amount of worked hours will count toward this hour threshold.

Employees on intermittent leave are still expected to follow attendance and call-out procedures (within reasonable effort), and leave for medical reasons must be certified by a health care provider.

How do you calculate Intermittent leave requests?

Here are the key steps for calculating intermittent leave:

  1. Determine the employee's normal workweek hours. If the employee has a consistent schedule, use that. If the schedule varies, calculate the weekly average over the past 12 months.
  2. Convert the 12-week entitlement to hours based on the normal schedule. For example, 12 weeks at 40 hours per week equals 480 hours. For part-time employees working 20 hours per week, the entitlement would be 240 hours.
  3. Track the actual time taken for each intermittent leave absence. Employers must account for the time in the smallest increment used for other forms of leave, as long as it is no more than one hour.
  4. Deduct the amount of intermittent leave used from the employee's total entitlement. For instance, if an employee who normally works 40 hours per week takes 10 hours of intermittent FMLA leave in a week, they have used 1/4 of a workweek.
  5. Monitor the remaining entitlement and continue tracking intermittent absences until the 12-week entitlement is exhausted or the leave year ends.

Employers are highly encouraged to maintain accurate records and consistently apply their chosen FMLA calculation method.

Failing to calculate intermittent leave correctly can result in employees receiving more or less than their entitled leave and leaves them open to potential legal action.

Example Calculation: Standard 40 Hour Workweek

John works a standard 40-hour workweek, 8 hours per day, 5 days a week. He is eligible for FMLA and needs to take intermittent leave for a qualifying medical condition. John's doctor certifies that he needs to attend physical therapy appointments twice a week, each lasting 2 hours.

  • Total FMLA leave entitlement: 12 weeks × 40 hours/week = 480 hours
  • Intermittent leave schedule: 2 appointments/week × 2 hours/appointment = 4 hours/week
  • Weekly FMLA leave usage: 4 hours/week ÷ 40 hours/week = 1/10 or 0.1 weeks
  • Remaining FMLA leave: 12 weeks - (0.1 weeks × number of weeks used)

If John attends his appointments for 12 weeks, he will have used 1.2 weeks (0.1 × 12) of his 12-week FMLA entitlement, with 10.8 weeks remaining.

Example Calculation: Varying Schedule

Sarah works a varying schedule, averaging 45 hours per week over the past 12 months. She is eligible for FMLA and needs to take intermittent leave to care for her child with a serious health condition. Sarah's leave schedule requires her to take 1 full day off every other week.

  • Average workweek: 45 hours
  • Total FMLA leave entitlement: 12 weeks × 45 hours/week = 540 hours
  • Intermittent leave schedule: 1 day every other week = 0.2 weeks (1 day ÷ 5 days/week)
  • Remaining FMLA leave: 12 weeks - (0.2 weeks × number of bi-weekly periods used)

If Sarah takes 1 day off every other week for 12 weeks (6 bi-weekly periods), she will have used 1.2 weeks (0.2 × 6) of her 12-week FMLA entitlement, with 10.8 weeks remaining.

In both examples, the employees' intermittent leave usage is calculated based on their specific work schedules and the frequency and duration of their leave.

The remaining FMLA leave entitlement is tracked by subtracting the used intermittent leave from the total 12-week entitlement.

Medical Examples for Intermittent Leave

To be eligible for FMLA intermittent leave, the condition must qualify as a "serious health condition" under the law. For example, receiving medical treatment for a serious health condition.

This typically means an illness, injury, or condition that involves inpatient care or continuing treatment by a health care provider.

Medical Condition Intermittent Leave Usage
Chronic health issues (e.g., asthma, diabetes, migraines) Employees may take leave as needed when conditions flare up, making them unable to work. This could include for personal reasons or to take care of an immediate family member.
Ongoing medical treatments (e.g., chemotherapy, physical therapy) Leave can be used to attend recurring treatment sessions or medical appointments.
Pregnancy-related conditions and appointments Expectant mothers often use intermittent leave for prenatal checkups and pregnancy complications.
Mental health conditions Intermittent leave may be used to manage conditions like depression or anxiety that affect workability.

Medical Certification Requirements

Employers could ask employees to provide medical certification from their health care provider to support their request.

The certification should include:

  • the date the serious health condition began
  • its expected duration
  • medical facts about the condition
  • and a statement that the employee is unable to perform their job functions.

The certification must also state the medical necessity for the intermittent or reduced schedule and the expected duration of leave. Employees generally must provide the certification within 15 calendar days of the employer's request.

Employers may ask for a second opinion if they doubt the validity of the certification, but generally may not require a fitness-for-duty certification for each absence under an intermittent leave schedule.

Employer Responsibilities and Compliance

Employers have specific responsibilities when managing intermittent FMLA leave to ensure compliance with the law.

  1. Create clear policies detailing procedures for requesting intermittent leave, providing medical certification, scheduling expectations, and anti-retaliation provisions.
  2. Train managers to recognize intermittent leave requests, understand tracking requirements, and enforce policies consistently while avoiding potential FMLA interference claims.
  3. Implement tracking systems to accurately record intermittent leave usage, ensure legal compliance, and integrate with payroll/HR systems.
  4. Communicate expectations by reviewing certification details with employees, setting schedules when feasible, and addressing potential abuse through recertification.
  5. Consider accommodations like temporary transfers, modified schedules, or telecommuting when possible to maintain operations and productivity.
  6. Evaluate undue hardship before denying intermittent leave requests, as the ADA may require such leave as a reasonable accommodation for employees with disabilities

Your Role in Shaping a Supportive Workplace

As an HR manager, you have the power to shape a supportive and compliant workplace. This guide has armed you with the insights needed to manage intermittent leave effectively.

By creating clear policies, training your team, and maintaining accurate records, you can navigate the complexities of FMLA with confidence.

But beyond compliance, remember the human aspect—your efforts can significantly impact your employees' lives. Take the initiative to review and refine your leave management practices today. Your proactive approach will foster a culture of trust and support, ultimately leading to a more engaged and loyal workforce.

Ready to streamline your leave management? Try Knit People’s comprehensive time-off management software today. Start your 30-day free trial and see how easy managing intermittent leave can be.

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