Intermittent medical leave - need help untangling what to do

Hello Wise BPN community,

My spouse has been diagnosed with cancer and it will be at least 4 months of treatment (chemo, surgery). For chemo, 3 months, we think he will work a mix of reduced work schedule most days, and some days taking the whole day off. The system seems set up for people to take off entire whole blocks of time, not what we need. 

We are trying to make his 60 FMLA-protected-leave days cover the expected 4 month period. Also, trying to understand if we should use all his sick and PTO first before taking short term disability (STD) when he is eligible, or is it better to try to use STD up first? Reduced income is a consideration but not our first concern. We are talking to his HR and the disability offices but intermittent leave is giving us confusing answers. Same goes for me to take paid family leave to do caregiving intermittently as well. 

Has anyone been through a scenario like this, and if so, what do you recommend? Thank you! 

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I recently, 2 years ago, went through the same thing.  The first thing is to get a doctor's note saying that you will be taken time off.  My doctor gave me 1-5 days a week for the entirety of my treatment which lasted about 6 months.  I had chemo, surgery, radiation, and then oral chemo pills. Once you do that your job will give you the FMLA.  How many days taken off really depend on your individual situation.  What worked for me was scheduling my chemo on Thursday afternoon.  I took Fridays off to feel crappy and sleep.  I also had the weekend to recover.  That way I wasn't using a lot of days.  I would definitely take the FMLA days first, that way if you don't use them all you can still have your sick days and PTO.  Because you are married you should get the same protection as your spouse.  

Also, because chemo weakens the immune system, your spouse will be more susceptible to sickness.  I ended up only working 1 day in January because I had pink eye and a cold.  You will both need to be extra careful when going anywhere.  

I hope this helps.

So FMLA is UNpaid leave, and it’s the only leave program that is job protected. The only caveat is that if the individual is an exempt (salaried) employee, then intermittent leave (eg, a few hours per week) would not affect pay.  FMLA is the easiest to get by far.  Obviously,  if you want to take continuous leave and be paid, then take  PTO and  sick leave first. That leave is job protected because it is allotted by the employer. SDI is paid leave, and if it is done through the state of California, certifying and extending leave is pretty easy. Benefits are maintained through the employer. The catch is that state disability leave is NOT job protected. That means the employer can eliminate the job in the employee’s absence and benefits disappear. That is why some people elect to take BOTH FMLA and SDI concurrently in order to get paid leave and have job protection. 

But, generally speaking, this is the progression: exhaust sick time and PTO, then if exempt (salaried), and  able to take intermittent leave, that is the safest route to maintain job protection and take time off while getting paid. SDI is paid, but some employers put a limit on how long they will wait before terminating employment. SDI, if administered by the state of California,  can continue until funds are exhausted or up to 52 weeks, whichever comes first. Problem is benefits disappear with the job, though, which can be problematic. Hope this helps!