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Cut costs by challenging requests for intermittent FMLA leave

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in FMLA Guidelines,HR Management,Human Resources,Leaders & Managers,Management Training

Employees are becoming well versed in the FMLA game, and you're paying the price.

Proof: Unscheduled intermittent FMLA leave now accounts for a sizable portion of all FMLA leave, says a new Employment Policy Foundation (EPF) study. Last year, 30 percent of all FMLA leave was taken in chunks of less than five days, and 20 percent of FMLA leave is for one day or less, the study says.

To manage that increasing amount of intermittent leave, it's vital to obtain the correct documentation to verify that the leave qualifies for FMLA status. How to do that? Don't take FMLA requests at face value; look into them.

At a recent Society for Human Resource Management conference, Robert Duston, a partner with Schmeltzer, Aptaker & Shepard, suggested these four tips:

1. If the employee requests intermittent leave to care for his or her own illness or a sick family member, ask for a medical certification explaining the need to provide care.

2. Challenge the intermittent schedule to determine if you can arrive at a schedule that's less disruptive to the workplace.

3. Use your right to request a second and even third opinion confirming medical need for the leave and the agreed-upon leave schedule.

4. Consider transferring the employees who request intermittent leave to other positions during the duration of their leave. That is within your legal options.

Final note: Employers spent a whopping $21 billion last year to comply with FMLA, according to the EPF report. That includes labor replacement costs, continuation of group health benefits and lost productivity. Read study at www.epf.org/pubs/newsletters/2005 /ib20050419.pdf.

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