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Seeking more information so employers can plan around intermittent FMLA leave

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in FMLA Guidelines,Human Resources

Q. As a small business owner, one of my most frequent frustrations is keeping a consistent work schedule when employees habitually miss work due to illness. I try to plan around absences as much as I can.

I’ve required employees seeking FMLA leave to have their doctors fill out the U.S. Department of Labor’s (DOL) medical certification form, which is supposed to give me some idea about the severity of the illness as well as the amount of work that might be missed. Too often, though, the information I get from doctors is too vague to be much help. Is there any way I can get more detail in these forms?

A. The DOL has heard a lot of complaints like yours and is currently considering changing its certification form to provide employers with more information regarding the frequency and duration of illnesses.

But you don’t have to wait for the federal government to act. You can amend the certification form yourself, as long as you request no additional information beyond what the DOL form already requests. You can amend the form to ask the doctor:

  • The anticipated number of missed workdays that the illness will force on a weekly or monthly basis.
  • The anticipated reduction in weekly or monthly work hours.
  • The anticipated duration of the illness causing the absences.
  • Whether the illness is likely to cause employees to miss whole or half workdays.
  • Whether the absences are likely to fall disproportionately on certain days—for example, at the beginning or end of the week.

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