What is Intermittent Leave?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
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  • Last Modified Date: 25 January 2020
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Intermittent leave is time off from work taken in separate blocks, rather than one big chunk. It is available in the United States under the Family and Medical Leave Act, and many nations have similar laws in place to allow people to take protected time off. Protected time off allows people to miss work for legitimate family and medical emergencies without worrying about losing their jobs or being demoted. The law surrounding leave is very complicated and employees who know they need leave may want to consult an attorney to get specific information.

There are a number of advantages to intermittent leave. Some people have disabilities or chronic conditions that flare up occasionally. Being allowed to take one big chunk of time off is not very helpful, as once they return to work, their conditions will return. Being allowed to take smaller breaks will allow them to accommodate their conditions while still working. Intermittent leave can also be used for caregiving, with family members trading off to provide complete care without missing big stretches of time at work or burning out by providing continuous caregiving.


To qualify for intermittent leave, people must be able to demonstrate a genuine illness or emergency. They can also qualify for leave to settle in with a new child. Typically leave needs to be scheduled in advance, with reasonable notice to allow the employer to make arrangements. People who need intermittent leave may be moved to equivalent positions with more scheduling flexibility, but they are entitled to return to their regular jobs after they return to work.

Employers often ask for documentation. For people with medical conditions, a note from a doctor explaining the situation and providing information about the kind of leave needed, like Wednesdays off for 12 weeks to attend physical therapy, is very helpful. People making caregiver arrangements can work with their family members to develop a schedule and present this schedule to employers so their leaves can be planned as efficiently and smoothly as possible.

Intermittent leave cannot be used for sick days or days when employees simply don't feel like coming in to work. Employees may be able to arrange for use of vacation days for these events. There are regulations governing responsibilities on both sides of the leave equation and it is important for employers to provide employees with clear information about their leave policies, who to contact about scheduling leave, and how to handle emergencies.


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Post 8

@Icecream17 - I am glad that you were able to take the time off that you needed. I know that some companies really don’t offer maternity leave but the family leave act at least allows these mothers a chance to bond with their newborn babies as well as recover from the pregnancy.

It also lets the fathers take some time off which is the best thing for the new baby as well as the new mom. I remember when my daughter was born, my husband saved all of his three weeks of vacation at the time in order to stay home with me when my daughter was born, and it really helped me because otherwise I would have been overwhelmed.

Post 7

@Cloudel – I am so sorry to hear that you lost your job. It must have been so stressful for you by having to also deal with your son’s illness on top of losing your job. I hope everything works out for your family.

I wanted to add that when my mother was admitted into the hospital, my sisters and I thought it was probably nothing serious, but her health continued to decline and I was able to take advantage of the FMLA leave or the family leave act because we found out that my mother had stage 4 uterine cancer and I needed to be with her.

I am so grateful for this FMLA intermittent leave because there

was no way I was going to be able to work with my mother dying in the hospital. I believe that the FMLA intermittent leave guidelines stipulate that you have to have either the birth of son or daughter or an adoption of a child.

It also allows the employee to take time off to care for a spouse or parent with a terminal illness. You can get up to twelve weeks off but they are unpaid, but the company must hold your position for you.

Post 6

Because our company has no intermittent leave policy, the timing of my illness couldn't have been better. Two new work-at-home positions had just been created, and the company loved to hire from within.

I had been extremely weak, stiff, and barely able to work. I had constant nausea and almost no appetite. I kept going to different doctors, but no one had been able to fix me yet.

I told my boss that I just could not bear leaving the company and that I would love to be considered for a telecommuting position. The work involved lots of telephone calls, and I could do it all from my chair. She transferred me on the spot.

Post 5

@wavy58 - You are very blessed to have such a great workplace. I was not so fortunate.

My five year old son had been missing a lot of school because of frequent sickness. Every time I got the call to come pick him up, I dreaded telling my supervisor at the furniture factory that I had to go, because she always sighed and gave me a stern look.

After one intense sickness, I took my boy to the doctor and found out he had leukemia. Well, there was no way I was going back to work until I had him cured. I told my supervisor the situation, and she said there was nothing she could do. So, I lost

my job and we had to depend solely on my husband's income during that time.

With all the trips back and forth to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital and home again, there was no possible way I could have continued working. I now have a job that lets me telecommute, and I’m grateful for it.

Post 4

I work for a pediatrician, and he is very lenient with the intermittent leave policy. All of his employees had to read the handbook when they started, but he let them know up front that family always comes first, and he would do everything he could to help us out with bad situations.

My mother became very ill during the fall, and I feared if left by herself she would pass out and injure herself. I had to take an intermittent leave of absence.

I stayed home with her for two months before she finally got her diagnosis and appropriate medication. The day I came back to work, my boss and coworkers threw me a welcome home party. I never want to work anywhere else.

Post 3

I work for a family-owned small town newspaper. My supervisor and my boss are both very accommodating to those with physical needs requiring time off of work.

Years ago, I told them I had polycystic kidney disease. I wanted them to be aware in case I ever passed out at work and needed medical attention.

I had to travel four days out of the year to take part in a clinical trial for a new drug to treat the condition. They always let me have those days off, even if they fell on very busy days.

When I started needing dialysis, they let me have intermittent leave. I had to have it two days a week until a transplant became available.

Post 2

I find that talking with your employers about any medical or personal conditions is a good way to create trust between you and your superiors. Everyone has something happen to them at sometime or responsibilities outside of work that need to be taken care of, and intermittent leave is important to keep the right people with companies.

I have a gifted child who travels to different states for competitions and during the peek season I am often granted intermittent leave to attend to my family matters. My company respects the time I need for my family and in return I give them my all when I am at work. Often they will even arrange it so I can telecommute.

Does anyone have any other stories how intermittent leave has worked for you?

Post 1

I believe that checking your company policy on intermittent leave is very important before you sign a contract with them. Life can throw you a lot of curve balls and it is good to know there is time off available when you need it.

I don't believe people should get time off work for every sniffle, but for myself I occasionally have issues with my diabetes getting out of hand and need to have extra support during those times from doctors. Being able to take time off is important because if I was merely off sick I know I would get canned for being away too often.

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