They need intermittent FMLA leave, but you need to get stuff done
  • leadership
  • Blog post

They need intermittent FMLA leave, but you need to get stuff done

Let’s be frank: Dealing with employees’ intermittent FMLA leave is a pain.

Joe takes every Thursday afternoon off to see his knee specialist. Martha has migraines, and you’re never sure when she’s going to miss work. And Barney’s arthritis flares up at least a couple of times a month, knocking him out for a shift or two.

But Joe, Martha and Barney are all good folks, and generally reliable workers. As their manager, you have no doubt they need the leave, and they’re legally entitled to it. So what can you do to respect their FMLA rights and still get the work done in your team or department?

Managers need to know about three important tools they can use to manage intermittent FMLA leave fairly and effectively:

  • Lateral transfers
  • Scheduling of medical treatments, and
  • Proper use of the FMLA’s notice provisions

Here’s an example of how the first one – lateral transfer – might work.

Think back to Martha, the employee who’s certified for FMLA leave because of her frequent, unpredictable migraines. Suppose she works on your assembly line, and when she calls out at the last minute, it leaves you short-handed and unable to meet your daily output goals.

Instead of merely getting frustrated – and maybe getting heat from higher up about the missed goals – you look around the company for a job where Martha’s absences won’t cause so much trouble.

Working with the warehouse supervisor, you find a warehouse employee who doesn’t mind moving to the production line, and you get Martha to swap positions with that employee. As long as her pay, benefits and conditions are equivalent in the new job, you’ve found a solution that respects everybody’s rights, and helps you get your work done on time.


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