Intermittent leave, a type of Family and Medical Leave Act job protection, is leave taken in various blocks of time for a single qualifying family or medical issue. Although there’s a lot for your clients to consider when carefully managing these types of leaves, in this blog I’m going to focus on the paperwork that outlines the parameters for an absence — certifications and recertifications.

By becoming well-versed in understanding what information is needed when an employee cites an absence as an FMLA intermittent leave, you can inspire confidence in your clients. Here’s what you need to know:

  • Timing is important: An employee needs to provide a complete and sufficient certification for the leave, generally within 15 days of an employer requesting it. This paperwork is provided by the employee’s health care provider to support the employee’s need for an absence. It’ll outline parameters such as the times the leave might need to be taken and how many days a month this absence could occur.
  • Certain circumstances may warrant authentication and clarification: It is imperative that employers review the certification when they receive it, to ensure it is complete and provides sufficient documentation. If it’s not, employers need to provide the employee with an opportunity to fix any deficiencies with the certification. If these deficiencies aren’t fixed, employers (though not the employee’s direct supervisor) can reach out to the health care provider directly to clarify responses provided on the form or to authenticate that the form was completed or authorized by the provider.
  • There are rules for requesting recertifications: Employers generally can request recertifications no more often than every 30 days, unless the initial certification indicates the duration of the condition will last longer. If the employee requests an extension, if the employee’s circumstances have changed significantly, or if the employer receives information that “casts doubt” on the reason for the leave, recertification can be requested more frequently.
  • Clients can get a second (or third) opinion: There’s a chance your client may doubt the validity of a certification. In this case, the employer can require a second opinion, completed at the employer’s expense. This second opinion provider is designated by the employer, as long as the provider isn’t employed on a regular basis. If the first and second opinions differ, the employer may require that the employee obtain another certification via a third opinion. Both the employer and employee must agree on the third opinion provider, and it acts as a tie-breaker — with this third opinion final and binding.

Uncertainty regarding how to manage intermittent leaves can create big headaches, and potential compliance nightmares, for your clients. Helping your clients understand the importance of proper intermittent leave management not only positions you as a trusted resource, it will help them ensure they’re compliant with FMLA regulations.
Also see: “Have your clients considered these two little-known ways to help manage intermittent leaves?”

Dirks, a senior compliance analyst for absence management with Standard Insurance Company, is a Family and Medical Leave Act thought leader. His latest white paper, Best Practices for Administering Intermittent Leaves in the Workplace, is now available at

The Standard is a marketing name for StanCorp Financial Group, Inc. and subsidiaries. Insurance products are offered by Standard Insurance Company of 1100 SW Sixth Avenue, Portland, Ore. in all states except New York, where insurance products are offered by The Standard Life Insurance Company of New York of 360 Hamilton Avenue, Suite 210, White Plains, N.Y. Product features and availability vary by state and company, and are solely the responsibility of each subsidiary. Each company is solely responsible for its own financial condition. Standard Insurance Company is licensed to solicit insurance business in all states except New York. The Standard Life Insurance Company of New York is licensed to solicit insurance business in only the state of New York.

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