It’s one thing to grasp individual Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) rules, but another thing entirely to apply them in the real world. This article series addresses some of the most confusing real world problems. Here we’ll focus on managing intermittent and reduced schedule leave.
FMLA leave may be taken intermittently or on a reduced leave schedule under certain circumstances.
Intermittent Leave vs. Reduced Leave Schedule
“Intermittent leave” is FMLA leave taken in separate blocks of time due to a single qualifying reason. An employer may not require an employee to take more leave than necessary to address the circumstances that precipitated the need for leave, and that FMLA leave may only be counted against an employee’s FMLA entitlement for leave taken and not for time that is worked for the employer. The FMLA regulations also state that employers must track FMLA leave using the smallest increment of time used for other forms of leave subject to a 1-hour maximum.
A “reduced leave schedule” is a leave schedule that reduces an employee’s usual number of working hours per workweek, or hours per workday. Reduced leave schedule is a change in the employee’s schedule for a period of time, normally from full time to part time. An example of an employee taking leave on a reduced leave schedule is an employee who is recovering from a serious health condition and is not strong enough to work a full-time schedule.
Reasons To Take Intermittent Or Reduced Leave Schedule
The FMLA regulations set forth a number of circumstances under which an employee would be entitled to take intermittent or reduced schedule leave. Those circumstances include:
- Medical need. For intermittent leave or leave on a reduced leave schedule taken because of an employee’s or covered family member’s own serious health condition, or to care for a covered service member with a serious injury or illness, there must be a medical need for leave (as distinguished from voluntary treatments and procedures). In addition, the medical need must be one that is best accommodated through an intermittent or reduced leave schedule.
Leave may be taken intermittently or on a reduced leave schedule when medically necessary for planned and/or unanticipated medical treatment of a serious health condition or of a covered service member’s serious injury or illness, or for recovery from treatment or recovery from a serious health condition or a covered service member’s serious injury or illness. It may also be taken to provide care or psychological comfort to a covered family member with a serious health condition or a covered service member with a serious injury or illness.
- Periodic treatment by a healthcare provider. Intermittent leave may be taken for an employee’s or covered family member’s own serious health condition, or a serious injury or illness of a covered service member that requires treatment by a healthcare provider periodically, rather than for one continuous period of time.
Examples of intermittent leave would include leave taken on an occasional basis for medical appointments, or leave taken several days at a time spread over a period of 6 months, such as for chemotherapy.
- Pregnant employees. A pregnant employee may take leave intermittently for prenatal examinations or for her own condition, such as for periods of severe morning sickness. More information regarding intermittent leave and pregnant employees will be covered in a future article.
- Chronic serious health conditions/serious illness or injury. Intermittent or reduced schedule leave may be taken for absences where the employee or family member is incapacitated or unable to perform the essential functions of the position because of a chronic serious health condition or a serious injury or illness of a covered service member, even if he or she does not receive treatment by a healthcare provider.
- Birth or placement. When leave is taken after the birth of a healthy child or placement of a healthy child for adoption or foster care, an employee may take leave intermittently or on a reduced leave schedule only if the employer agrees. The employer’s agreement is not required, however, for leave during which the mother has a serious health condition in connection with the birth of her child or if the newborn child has a serious health condition.
- Qualifying exigency. Leave due to a qualifying exigency may be taken on an intermittent or reduced leave schedule basis.
Preventing Intermittent Leave Abuse
In order to curb FMLA abuse and abuse of intermittent leave, the employer must first understand the rights and limits imposed on an employee by the FMLA. The next installment explains intermittent leave rules under the FMLA.