Intermittent leave claims cover a wide range of situations. The Department of Labor describes Intermittent FMLA Claims as employees taking leave in separate blocks of time or by reducing the time he or she works each day for a qualifying reason. Qualifying reasons can include but are not limited to; care of a family member, employee’s own serious health condition, and adoption/foster care.
While an employee’s eligibility or entitlement plays a factor in whether they establish an intermittent claim, outside factors such as a pandemic can also influence an employee’s decision to create or utilize a claim.
The recent Coronavirus pandemic has shifted employee’s day-to-day routines in many ways. Some are experiencing working from home on a full-time basis. Others might have deferred an elective surgery or other appointments. Many employees are also adjusting to life without a child’s school or childcare, often in single-parent households or while both parents are working remotely. In any case, the pandemic has caused an increase in uncertainty and stress.
During a pandemic, one could argue that there would be a rise of additional intermittent FMLA claims and time taken, as employees would potentially be sick or need to take care of ill family members. In researching Broadspire’s intermittent leave of absence data, however, a different pattern emerged.
Beginning in March 2020, intermittent utilization decreased on a per-day basis. This means that even though employees continued to create new intermittent FMLA claims and other intermittent claims remained open, employees were calling in less to use entitled time for those existing claims. During pre-pandemic times, Broadspire experienced, on a typical day, 13% of open intermittent claims having time called in (aka intermittent utilization). During the lowest point of intermittent utilization during the pandemic, that percentage dropped to just 2% of open claims having time called in.
The significant drop in intermittent utilization begs the question of why.
Are employees not calling in time due to fear of repercussions during a period when employers are making difficult decisions about layoffs and furloughs? With the push of telemedicine, is there less of a need to take off work intermittently to go to an appointment? Will there be a big push of intermittent absences once elective surgeries are rescheduled after the pandemic is subdued?
As we transition through June 2020 where states are easing restrictions and businesses are beginning to reopen, Broadspire has begun to see the daily intermittent utilization percentage increase once again. We are closely monitoring the utilization rates for our clients and will partner with them on the trends, patterns and potential risk.