Leave Management: 6 Tips for Intermittent FMLA Management

In concept, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) should be a simple law to follow. As businesses need to provide as much as three months’ worth of unpaid time off annually, companies can encourage family checks and medical leaves. 

An FMLA-covered leave should be easy to manage, but it’s not. Intermittent FMLA leave has many issues that are easy to miss for the company. If you’re one of those HR teams having the same problem, here are six tips that should simplify the process.

What Is FMLA?

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is a law that requires covered employers to provide a job-protected unpaid leave, as long as it’s for qualified medical and family reasons. The act was first introduced in 1993, with the focal point of the legislation allowing eligible employees to take medical or pregnancy-related absences from work without the threat of losing their jobs. 

The duration of the time varies from state to state, depending on state laws. However, the federal law roughly covers 12 weeks, and employers must fulfill it as needed. FMLA allows for more accessible childcare, especially for new parents and employees who need care for a sick parent or spouse.

While this sounds fantastic, the potential for abuse is easy, considering it’s hard to detail what qualifies as a “qualified medical and family reason.” At the same time, the intermittent nature of the situation opens more issues for those who provide a workplace wellness program.

Confirm Employee Eligibility

Eligibility is vital in preventing abuse, especially for new employees who may use it to jump around from company to company. Eligibility for FMLA is mostly specific, so it shouldn’t be too hard to detail these during onboarding sessions.

Generally, an employee is eligible for an unscheduled or short-term leave of absence if they work at a 50-employee business or have worked there for at least 12 months. They need to ensure that the company has at least 50 employees within a 75-mile radius of the employee’s location.

If the company meets the 50-employees threshold, the managers should check if the worker has completed a minimum of 1,250 hours of service during the 12 months before the planned lapse. If the criteria are met, the worker is, in fact, eligible for an off-duty.

In most situations, employee eligibility strikes at the distance requirement or the employee threshold requirement.

Require A Medical Certificate

It might sound obvious, but many workers are unaware of this requirement. Every employee has the right to request an absence related to a “serious health condition.” If you, as the supervisor or manager, are not aware of it, ask for medical certification. 

The medical certificate should indicate the name of the person requesting the status and details about the condition. It should also state the dates for the related treatment or surgery. 

The required information may vary from employer to employer, so check in with your company policy, as it’s required to have a valid, official document. 

A medical certificate protects the company if the management feels the caregiver is taking advantage of the system, as it allows the manager to document the approved dates and validate the dates when the employee is reporting to work. 

Train HR To Identify Leaves And Make Them A Point Person

One of the things you should train your human resources department to do is to identify possible “leaves” and notify the immediate supervisors. HR professionals should be able to identify potential accessibility issues and notice when a worker isn’t in the office. 

Not all requests for an off day are legitimate, so they should also train the supervisors and hiring managers to identify fake or illegitimate requests. You also want a single HR team member to handle all leaves, including all FMLA-related leaves.

That point-person should be appropriately trained and know how to handle the situation. Training should include the procedures, the communication, and the expectations. The team should be familiar with the questions, such as who to contact with further questions or doubts. 

Contact Physician For Verification

When the concerned party asks for an off-day, the HR department is advised to contact their physicians for verification. This will prevent future issues with this person abusing the system. 

The physician should be able to verify the person’s health, qualifications, and whether they qualify for an off period. The call should take place before an off is scheduled, as the confirmation should coincide with the documentation. 

Verifying the details of the requested emergency is important, as it lets your managers and coworkers know you’re serious about the process. Also, it proves that the request is valid and meets all the requirements. 

Look For Patterns Of Abuse

If you suspect someone is taking an off day in an irregular pattern, consider conversing with them. Some part-timers, for example, maybe call in sick when they meet their friends for a coffee. 

Sometimes, collecting more days off may be a tactic, as they may have multiple jobs. In other cases, it could be a “sick mom” or “dad” that takes advantage of a “no-fault” application to take time off.

If you notice that the same person always wants an off after Christmas or after their child’s birthday, you should approach that person and ask why. It may also be a simple case of Monday or Friday syndrome, which is especially problematic for most employees.

Implement A Block Leave Policy

The “no-fault” nature of an off is questionable, especially regarding the “no questions asked” bonus of paid sick days. If your goal is to encourage more self-care, it is advisable to have a “use it or lose it” policy that rewards regular attendance. 

This policy will discourage people from “borrowing” the days, forcing them to use up any PTO they’ve been accumulating. It will also signal to the individuals that they may be terminated if they miss too many days in a row. 

Your “no excuse” policy for “no pay” sick leave should apply to all sicknesses, including flu, allergies, and other common ailments. You should also ensure that this policy applies to all industries, as every group needs to take a proactive approach to these issues. 

The Bottom Line

As people frequently misuse intermittent FMLA, it is highly recommended that companies have a proactive plan in place. Proper FMLA management by creating a plan with your staff will help minimize conflicts.

The policies should be clear, and everyone should be aware of them. Unfortunately, as “no” is the most complex word to say, you will have to deal with some pushback. That is why you should aim to be consistent, as this is a requirement of your policy. 

Consider these tips to help you simplify management of intermittent FMLA in your company.

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