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If you�re reading this, you�ve likely seen certifications that indicate an employee needs leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) for a condition that lasts for the employee�s (or a family member�s) lifetime.

Many health conditions linger for years. Until medical science advances to eliminate long-lasting illnesses, you can expect to continue seeing such certifications.

These lifelong conditions might be chronic ones, such as asthma, or one that is permanent or long-term where treatment might not be effective, such as Alzheimer�s disease.

Intermittent leave

Lifelong conditions often involve flare-ups and intermittent FMLA leave for your employees who are managing symptoms, doctor appointments, etc. A certification should provide you with an idea as to when an employee might be absent. Remember, however, that this is just an estimate, so you might need to be flexible.

The certification could state that it is valid for 12 months. Such an indication, however, does not mean that you need to wait 12 months before asking for updated information.

Situations change, so you might want to get fresh information regarding a lifelong condition and continuing need for leave. Enter recertifications.


You may request a recertification no more often than every 30 days in connection with an employee�s absence unless the condition will last for more than 30 days � which would be the case for lifelong conditions.

For conditions certified as having a minimum duration of more than 30 days, you must wait to request a recertification until the specified period has passed.

In all cases, including those where the condition is indefinite or lifelong, you may request recertification every six months in connection with an employee�s absence.

Employee example

If Joe Employee requests and takes eight weeks of FMLA leave for a back operation and gives you a medical certification listing an eight-week absence, you can assume he will be back by that time.

At the end of the eight-week period, what if Joe tells you he needs more leave? Now he needs three days of FMLA leave per month for an indefinite period for additional therapy. You may request a recertification at that time, as Joe has asked for an extension of the original leave.

Six months later, and in connection with an absence for the same reason, you may ask Joe to recertify the need for FMLA leave. From that recertification, you learn that Joe will continue to need time off every now and then for his back condition.


Lifelong conditions don�t usually change much in 30 days, so it makes sense to request updated information only every six months. Of course, when the employee requests leave for the first time in a new 12-month period, you may request a new certification.

In some situations, a condition could change in less than six months. Therefore, you may request a recertification sooner than six months if any of the following occurs:

  • The employee requests an extension of leave;
  • Circumstances described in the current certification change significantly (e.g., the duration or frequency of the absence, the nature or severity of the condition, complications); or
  • You receive information that casts doubt upon the employee�s stated reason for leave.

Key to remember: Certifications and recertifications are great tools to help keep you informed regarding lifelong conditions. The FMLA does, however, put limits on when you may request such information.