Intermittent FMLA Leave Vs. Continuous FMLA Leave

Aug 04, 2016
By Peter Friedmann
Columbus FMLA lawyers

Now that our Columbus FMLA lawyers have posted helpful information and resources to help determine whether you are eligible for FMLA leave in Ohio, lets discuss the difference between intermittent FMLA leave and continuous FMLA leave.

There is also a third type of leave available to you- reduced schedule FMLA leave. As an Ohio Employment Attorney, I am frequently asked what type of FMLA leave is available and whether it can be broken down into smaller increments. This article will answer those questions.

Difference between Intermittent FMLA Leave and Continuous FMLA Leave

Continuous FMLA Leave

Both intermittent FMLA leave and continuous FMLA leave are available to you. Continuous FMLA leave is FMLA leave that is taken and not broken up by periods of work. Continuous FMLA leave is typically when an employee is absent for three consecutive business days or longer and has been treated by a doctor. For example, a new mother can take 8 weeks off from work to care for her newborn baby. This 8 week period is considered continuous FMLA leave. Leave to care for a sick family member or leave to receive treatment for your own serious illness may be continuous as well.

Intermittent FMLA Leave

Intermittent FMLA leave is an option for employees who want to use FMLA leave in a more flexible manner. Intermittent leave involves the use of days or hours, broken down into increments, to care for a family member with a serious illness or to receive treatment for your own serious illness. An example of intermittent leave is an employee who suffers from a condition that causes “flare-ups” or periods of time where the employee is in pain and cannot attend work. Another example is an employee who is being treated for cancer and must attend chemotherapy or radiation appointments. You may use intermittent FMLA leave to attend these appointments.

FMLA leave is available to you during these flare-up periods and allows you to receive treatment for your serious medical condition without having to take continuous, unnecessary FMLA leave. Intermittent FMLA leave may be taken in very small increments. Only intermittent leave that is actually taken by the employee is counted against the 12-week time period allotted to you. If you do not use Interrmittent FMLA leave, it is not counted against that 12-week period.

Lastly, it is also possible to use reduced schedule FMLA leave to care for a family member, reduce stress or for your own serious medical condition, under certain circumstances. Reduced schedule leave allows you to reduce the amount of hours you work per day or per week. The amount of hours or days will then count toward the 12-week allowance allotted to you under the FMLA. If at all possible, it is important to work with your employer and notify them of the need for leave as soon as you become aware of it. For scheduled procedures, like chemotherapy or surgery, this is relatively easy to do. In a scenario where you suffer from flare-ups, this may not be feasible so it is important to inform the employer as soon as you become aware of the need for leave.

Overview of Intermittent Leave and Continuous Leave under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA)

Briefly, let’s look at a general overview of what intermittent and continuous leave is based on what we discussed above.

  1. Intermittent leave: This is FMLA leave available to employees who are interested in using their leave more flexibly. This kind of leave can involve using days or hours that have been broken down into increments for doctor’s appointments, treatment, or any other covered reason. Intermittent leave can be used to reduce the hours you work daily or weekly for several reasons, including your own medical conditions, spending time with a newborn or newly placed child, or for military family leave.
  2. Continuous leave: This FMLA leave is when an employee will take leave that is continuous. This may range from something as short as three to four days to twelve weeks, depending on the employee’s needs. Common examples of continuous leave include parental leave, recovering from serious surgery, and taking time off to care for a sick family member such as a spouse, parent, or child.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Intermittent FMLA Leave

For employees looking to take intermittent FMLA leave, the advantages of this type of leave include:

  • Much more flexibility
  • The option to reduce the hours worked in a day or a week to suit your needs.
  • Easier to adjust to your schedule, especially if you are facing an irregular schedule.

Intermittent leave is especially beneficial for employees who may have frequent medical appointments that require an irregular schedule. For example, an employee may have been diagnosed with a medical condition that will require initial surgery and follow-up treatment. Intermittent leave is a good option to consider as that employee will have more freedom in how to use their leave time.

Disadvantages of intermittent leave include being unable to take a longer, extended amount of leave at once.  Keep in mind, you can always apply for continuous leave if you find that intermittent is not working well for you. You get 12 weeks of FMLA leave and you can use it however you’d like to.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Continuous FMLA Leave

For employees looking to take continuous FMLA leave, some of the advantages include:

  • Being able to take a continuous chunk of leave at one time.
  • Using continuous leave to care for qualifying family members.
  • Using continuous leave for your own medical needs.
  • Using continuous leave in conjunction with your partner for child bonding.

It’s important to note that the disadvantages of both intermittent and continuous leave will really depend on what exactly you need to take leave for. Below, we look at how to choose which makes the most sense for you.

How to Choose Between Intermittent FMLA Leave and Continuous FMLA Leave

Choosing between intermittent and continuous FMLA leave is going to mostly depend on your situation and what type of leave will work best for you. When choosing what leave to apply for, consider these questions:

  1. What do you need to take leave for?
  2. How much leave do you need to take?
  3. Would one continuous amount of leave work best or would flexible leave make more sense?
  4. Would a mix of the two work best? (i.e. will you need two weeks of continuous leave and then intermittent leave for follow-up care?)

Once you answer these questions, you should be able to determine what type of leave works best for you.

How to Apply for Intermittent or Continuous FMLA Leave

Applying for FMLA leave may work differently based on your workplace policies and procedures, but generally, you can expect:

  1. You’ll need to notify your manager 30 days prior to any scheduled leave for leave that is foreseeable. This should be in writing.
  2. You’ll need to fill out the correct FMLA forms that apply to your situation, which will be used if you are requesting FMLA leave for a personal serious medical condition. You can request those forms from your employer.
  3. Your employer will also need to complete a specific section of the FMLA leave paperwork.
  4. You will need to meet with a healthcare professional within 15 days of receiving the FMLA paperwork from your employer.
  5. You can expect your employer to go over the paperwork to ensure all of the information is correct.

If you have further questions on how to apply for intermittent or continuous FMLA leave, please contact one of our FMLA lawyers.

Tips for Employers on Managing Employees Taking Intermittent or Continuous FMLA Leave

We understand that managing FMLA leave can be a complex process. As per the Society for Human Resource Management, some basic tips for employers on managing employees who are taking FMLA leave:

  1. Create policies and procedures that provide employees with steps to take before, during, and after the FMLA leave request process.
  2. Have a person who handles FMLA leave administration within your organization. FMLA leave administration can be easier if there’s a dedicated individual who oversees everything.
  3. Be sure to communicate with employees about how the FMLA works.

Legal Considerations for Employers Regarding Intermittent and Continuous FMLA Leaves

There are a number of resources available from the Department of Labor (DOL) for employers to read through in regard to legal considerations and FMLA leave.

Some key resources we recommend include:

Get Free Consultation from FMLA Attorneys Near You

If you have questions about what type of FMLA leave to take, please contact us. It is unlawful for your employer to harass or retaliate against you for taking FMLA leave. If your employer has been hostile toward you or expresses dissatisfaction with your absences that are covered by FMLA, give us a call- one of our Columbus FMLA lawyers can help.