All About the Intermittent FMLA (Family and Medical Leave Act)

Intermittent FMLA (Family and Medical Leave Act)

As businesses worldwide struggle with employee absenteeism, employers and employees are still unaware of several aspects relating to the Family and Medical Leave Act Intermittent amendment.

The US Congress adopted the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) in 1993 to provide employees with job security when they have to miss work to care for their health or the health of their family members and dependents.

This act also covers leaves of absence related to a family member’s military service. However, there is widespread confusion among employers and employees about the clauses in the “intermittent” or “reduced-schedule” leave that employees frequently require.

What is the Employee Entitled to Under the Intermittent or Reduced-Schedule Leave?

Under the FMLA, eligible employees can take up to 12 weeks of unpaid sick leave within a year. Medical emergency leaves under FMLA can be taken continuously or on a part-time (intermittent) basis, depending on the medical necessity.

Such reduced-schedule leaves that an employee gets come under FMLA, which can be taken within specified periods but are less than what the employee is entitled to.

According to a court order, intermittent leave is “a series of absences, separated by days during which the employee is at work, but all of which are taken for the same medical reason, subject to the same notice, and taken during the same twelve-month period.” (Davis c. Mich. Bell Tel. Co., 543 F.3d 345, 350-51 (6th Circuit 2008).

Intermittent leaves could be used to care for a chronically ill spouse, children, or parent, including taking days off, missing partial days, or taking time off in hourly increments.

The intermittently applied leaves are deducted from the employee’s 12-week entitled leaves.

In addition, qualified employees can take intermittent or reduced-schedule leaves without employer consent in case they need to be present for pregnancy care of their spouse, severe health disorder, or injury to a dependent service member.

However, an employee seeking intermittent or reduced schedule leave for adoption or placement of the child in foster care will need the employer’s approval beforehand.

If both spouses work for the same employer, they are entitled to 12 weeks of FMLA leave for the birth, adoption or foster care placement of a child within a year.

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What are the Employers’ responsibilities for FMLA Intermittent leaves?

Employers must create written policies detailing both parties’ responsibilities regarding FMLA leave, including intermittent leave.

Having easy-to-read policies acknowledged in writing by the employees helps employers manage employee expectations and decrease the risk of confusion or misunderstanding.

Employers should provide information and training on FMLA, including intermittent leave rights and responsibilities, but they are not required to have regular sessions to explain reasons for qualification.

Employers are responsible for designating leave as FMLA-qualifying based on information provided by the employee. This can be done by employers enquiring with employees to determine if their leave request qualifies under the FMLA intermittent leave clause.

It is inadvisable to ignore an employee’s routine leave request for time off without checking its validity as described under FMLA directives.

In addition, employers should train all high-level management to identify intermittent leave requests that fall under FMLA.

What are the Employee’s responsibilities for FMLA Intermittent leaves?

Employees should at least provide clear and detailed information about taking intermittent or reduced-schedule leaves by obtaining the essential medical certification from a healthcare provider (doctor/physician). Employees are also responsible for providing leave applications well in advance.

There are situations where an employee cannot determine the exact schedule when applying for urgent intermittent leaves for emergencies.

For instance, several chronic disorders flare infrequently and create medical emergencies, which are not always possible to predict. In such situations, the employees are responsible for communicating with supervisors in writing each time they need to take an urgent intermittent leave without being able to provide sufficient advanced notice.

Employees must provide medical certification to support the need for FMLA leave when the employer requests, not just have it handy. The employee must also follow a call-in policy if it is mandated within their employment contract.

Last but not least, employees should not abuse the provisions under the FMLA by taking it for reasons not covered under its clauses.


The FMLA may seem confusing to employers and employees alike, especially if they are not diligent enough. This is especially true when applying for and granting intermittent or reduced schedule leaves.

Employers need to manage intermittent leaves carefully and show appropriate sensitivity to the challenges posed by employees’ intermittent absences.

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Current Version
November 15, 2023
Updated By
Andrea Morales G.
April 15, 2024
Updated By
Andrea Morales G.

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