Skip to content
Home » HR Industry Articles » Understanding Intermittent FMLA Leave: A Comprehensive Guide

Understanding Intermittent FMLA Leave: A Comprehensive Guide


    The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is a vital piece of legislation that provides eligible employees with the opportunity to take leave for specific family and medical reasons. Among the various forms of FMLA leave, intermittent FMLA leave is a critical option. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore what intermittent FMLA leave is, how it works, and who is eligible for it.

    What is Intermittent FMLA Leave?

    Intermittent FMLA leave is a type of leave granted to employees under the FMLA that allows them to take time off from work in separate, non-continuous periods. Unlike continuous FMLA leave, which is taken in one continuous block, intermittent leave enables employees to take time off intermittently for qualifying reasons.

    Eligibility for Intermittent FMLA Leave

    To be eligible for intermittent FMLA leave, employees must meet certain criteria:

    1. Working for a Covered Employer

    Employees are eligible if they work for a covered employer, which typically includes private sector employers with 50 or more employees, public agencies, and elementary and secondary schools.

    2. Length of Employment

    Employees should have worked for their employer for at least 12 months before requesting intermittent FMLA leave.

    3. Hours Worked

    Employees must have worked at least 1,250 hours during the 12 months preceding the start of the leave.

    4. Qualifying Event

    Intermittent FMLA leave can be taken for specific qualifying events, including:

    • Serious health conditions that make the employee unable to perform their job.
    • The need to care for a spouse, child, or parent with a serious health condition.
    • The birth, adoption, or placement of a child for adoption or foster care.

    How Does Intermittent FMLA Leave Work?

    Intermittent FMLA leave is a flexible way to address family and medical needs without taking extended periods off work. Here’s how it works:

    1. Notice and Certification

    Employees are required to provide their employers with reasonable notice for the need for intermittent FMLA leave. Employers may request medical certification to validate the need for leave.

    2. Intermittent Leave Schedule

    Once approved, employees and their employers must agree on a schedule for the intermittent leave. The schedule may include:

    • The specific days or hours the employee will be absent.
    • The expected duration of the leave.
    • Any changes to the schedule, if necessary.

    3. Usage of Intermittent Leave

    Employees can use intermittent FMLA leave in various ways, such as taking a few hours off, half-days, or full days. It allows them to address their health concerns or family matters without the burden of continuous, extended leave.

    Reasons for Taking Intermittent FMLA Leave

    Intermittent FMLA leave can be utilized for several reasons, including:

    1. Medical Conditions

    Employees can take intermittent leave to address their own or their family member’s serious health condition. This includes ongoing treatments, surgeries, or therapy sessions.

    2. Pregnancy and Childbirth

    Intermittent leave can be used during pregnancy for prenatal care or post-birth to care for a newborn child. This provides flexibility for new parents.

    3. Adoption or Foster Care

    When employees adopt a child or welcome a foster child into their home, intermittent FMLA leave can be used for bonding and adjustment purposes.

    Benefits of Intermittent FMLA Leave

    Intermittent FMLA leave offers several benefits, both for employees and employers:

    For Employees:

    • Flexibility: Employees can manage their health or family responsibilities without taking extended time off.
    • Job Security: They are protected from losing their job while on approved FMLA leave.
    • Peace of Mind: Employees can focus on their well-being or caregiving without worrying about work-related consequences.

    For Employers:

    • Compliance: Employers can ensure compliance with FMLA regulations, reducing the risk of legal issues.
    • Employee Retention: It fosters a positive work environment and can lead to increased employee retention.
    • Productivity: By allowing intermittent leave, employees can return to work sooner, maintaining productivity levels.

    Potential Challenges and Considerations

    While intermittent FMLA leave offers numerous advantages, it also presents certain challenges and considerations:

    1. Administrative Burden

    Employers may find it challenging to manage the scheduling and tracking of intermittent leave, especially in large organizations.

    2. Leave Abuse

    Some employees might misuse intermittent FMLA leave, which can strain the employer-employee relationship and require vigilance in the approval process.

    3. Workload Management

    Co-workers may need to cover for employees on intermittent leave, potentially affecting productivity and workloads.

    Employee Rights and Protections

    Employees who take intermittent FMLA leave are entitled to specific rights and protections:

    1. Job Restoration

    Upon returning from intermittent FMLA leave, employees have the right to be reinstated to their previous position or an equivalent one.

    2. Maintenance of Benefits

    During FMLA leave, employers must maintain the employee’s benefits, just as if they were actively working.

    3. Retaliation Protection

    Employees are protected from retaliation for requesting or taking intermittent FMLA leave. Employers cannot discriminate against them for exercising their rights.

    Tips for Managing Intermittent FMLA Leave

    For both employees and employers, successful management of intermittent FMLA leave requires clear communication and a well-structured process:

    For Employers:

    • Establish clear policies and procedures for requesting and managing intermittent FMLA leave.
    • Maintain open lines of communication with employees and be responsive to their needs.
    • Train supervisors and managers to understand FMLA regulations and manage leave appropriately.

    For Employees:

    • Provide as much notice as possible when requesting intermittent leave.
    • Communicate openly with your employer about your needs and the schedule for your leave.
    • Keep accurate records of your FMLA leave and related medical documentation.


    Intermittent FMLA leave is a crucial tool that allows employees to balance their work responsibilities with family and medical needs. It offers flexibility, job security, and protection against discrimination. For employers, it may present some challenges in terms of administration and workload management, but the benefits in terms of employee retention and a positive work environment often outweigh these challenges. By understanding and effectively managing intermittent FMLA leave, both employees and employers can navigate this important aspect of employment law successfully.

    Note: Information found on this site is information only and is not intended to be used as legal advice. Please consult your counsel for specific legal advice.