Six things you need to know about intermittent leaves

intermittent leave calendar

As we’ve discussed in a previous blog post, proper case management is key for handling intermittent leaves. In fact, a proactive approach can help reduce the incidence of intermittent leaves in your workplace.

Another way to ensure smooth management of these leaves is to establish that your company is compliant and your employees are following proper procedures. Your company’s legal advisor or your disability carrier are insightful resources, and I’ve put together some tips to get you started.

  1. Get started on the right foot. This may seem basic, but employers that don’t understand or properly enforce Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) regulations may wind up facing legal action. If everyone is on the same page regarding the responsibilities of the employer and the employees, there’s less room for confusion or mistakes.
    • Make sure employees are giving the proper notice. Employees must give 30 days’ notice (or as soon as possible under the circumstances) for foreseeable leaves, which include things such as a scheduled surgery or medical treatment, and must provide documentation for unforeseen leaves as soon as practical. An example of an unforeseen leave would be medical treatment required after an accident or emergency surgery.
    • Review your call-in policy. Employers are permitted to require employees comply with their regular call-in procedures and to obtain information from employees about their employees’ leaves to determine if the leaves qualify under FMLA. Here are some questions to consider using:
      • What are the specific reasons for your absence?
      • Are you going to see a physician?
      • When did you first learn that you’d need to be off of work?
      • When do you expect to return to work?
    • Track usage carefully. Not only does this ensure you are providing only the amount of leave an employee is entitled to, it’s also your opportunity to detect patterns or trends that may suggest instances of misuse. For example, you may see that certain days of the week, particular assignments or certain managers trigger these leaves.
  1. Have a good understanding of certifications and recertifications. This required documentation is provided by an employee’s health care provider to support the employee’s need for absence and includes details about the parameters of the leave. It sounds straightforward, but here are some important things you need to know:
    • You don’t have to accept an employee’s certification at face value. If it isn’t complete or doesn’t provide sufficient information, have the employee obtain any missing information or obtain clarification of vague or confusing responses. If the employee fails to provide the missing information or clarification, someone other than the employee’s direct supervisor can reach out to the employee’s health care provider to obtain the information.
    • You can ask for recertifications, but there are restrictions. Employers may request recertification, but not more than every 30 days unless:
      • The employee requests an extension of the original request
      • The employee’s circumstances have changed significantly (frequency and duration of the absences, complications, etc.)
      • The employer receives information that casts doubt on the reason for the leave
    • You can get a second (or third) opinion. If you doubt the validity of a certification, you can request a second opinion from a provider of your choice. And if the second opinion doesn’t match the first, you can get a third opinion. It’s the tie-breaker. Both the employer and employee must agree on the third provider, and the decision of this provider is final and binding.

If you want more details and real-life examples relating to intermittent leaves, download our white paper. With proper management and compliance know-how, you can handle intermittent leaves efficiently and potentially even curb improper usage in your workplace.

About guest blogger Lincoln Dirks
Lincoln Dirks, a senior compliance analyst for absence management, has been with Standard Insurance Company since November of 2001. Lincoln obtained his Bachelor of Science degree in business administration from Portland State University, and his Juris Doctor degree from the University Of Oregon School Of Law. He also holds the following professional designations: Certified Employee Benefit Specialist; Fellow, Life Management Institute; Fellow, Life and Health Claims.

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