Managing Employee Leaves of Absence: Legal Requirements and Best Practices
There are over 660,000 individual worksites in the United States. It was estimated in 2022 that there are over 158 million employees in the United States. This gives an idea on the number of people actively working round the clock.
Every employee is an asset and stakeholder in a business or company. There are certain circumstances outside an employee’s workplace that might affect their performance. Hence, the need for a leave of absence.
A leave of absence is very important. It is one of the best practices that can be carried out by companies in employee management. Various labor laws mandate companies grant leave to their employees. This is why it is very important to involve an employment lawyer. Employment lawyers provide legal advice to employers and employees on a range of issues, including hiring and firing practices, discrimination, sexual harassment, employee benefits, and workplace safety. They may also act as mediators to help resolve disputes between employers and employees outside of court. Employment lawyers assist clients in drafting employment contracts, employee handbooks, and workplace policies to ensure that they comply with federal and state laws.This is to ensure your company complies with the laws.
How to Manage an Employee’s Leave of Absence
It is estimated an average of 2.8% of workers are absent from their workplace during workdays. Having a clear-cut plan mapped out by companies to handle these absences is very important.
One of the best practices a company can employ is to ensure leave of absence is given to their employees. This improves work-life balance and increases productivity for the employees. It also promotes a good healthy work environment. The following are the best practices that companies can use to manage leaves of absence:
Have a leave policy
A leave policy shows the employees that they have the option to tackle emergencies in their personal lives. A clear policy for leave of absence also sets a standard for the employees of the company. The policy should state the following:
- How employees can request for leave of absence
- When and under what circumstances leave can be requested
- Eligibility for leave of absence
- The payment arrangements during leave
- Time limits of the leave
- Required notice to be given for leave of absence by the employees
- Consequences of taking unauthorized leave
There should also be provisions for the review of the leave policy. There could be unanticipated reasons to take leave from work. For example, the Covid-19 pandemic, destructive storms, and so on.
These unanticipated reasons for leave must be clearly defined in the policies. This is to ensure the employees do not go overboard with the leave of absence.
There should also be a clear division of the leave of absence. For example, short-term and long-term. The types of leave that fall into these two categories should also be clearly stated.
Keep a track record of those on leave of absence
Employees are one of the greatest assets of a company. The absence of employees will cost the company a lot. Hence, it is important for a company to keep track of the employees on leave. Companies can prepare ahead of time and assign the work of the employee on leave to another person.
The best way to do this is by investing in tracking software. This ensures the collection of data to know who is on leave. This way, you can ensure productivity by reassigning tasks accordingly.
Holding regular meetings to carry out surveys amongst the employees
One of the most common reasons for absence from work is stress. The best way to find out what parts of work are stressing employees out is by conducting a survey. The survey would find out what part of work is stressful and how to proffer a solution. This method would show the employees the company cares about their work-life balance. This way, absences are managed and there is productivity from employees.
Review the workload with team leaders and project managers
It is important to reduce the workload if the surveys reveal there is too much workload. The team leaders and project managers must ensure that the workload is reviewed. If more employees need to be hired to reduce the workload, it should be done. This foster’s work balance and creates room for growth in the employees. This way, companies can manage leaves of absence and reduce absences at work.
Hire experts in drafting and implementing your company’s policy
A leave policy must suit the needs of the employees. It must also be compliant with the employment laws. Companies can ensure this by involving employment lawyers.
This not only makes the process easy but also reduces the chances of lawsuits being filed against the company in the future. Outsourcing employment lawyers will ensure the policy meets legal requirements.
Human Resources providers must also be consulted on the best approach for leave of absence. HR providers are experts in human resource management. They can proffer the best approach based on their experiences and expertise.
Legal Requirements in Managing Employee Leaves of Absence
Various legal requirements for leave of absence must be complied with by employers. This way you can prevent any form of disputes later on with employees.
These legal requirements vary from federal laws to state laws. The requirements for major laws are highlighted below:
The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
This law concerns companies with 50 or more employees. It mandates that employees must be given 12 weeks of unpaid leave for any of the following reasons:
- Illness of the employee or their family members
- Childbirth and care of newborns
There is also 26 weeks’ leave for employees who need to take care of an injured military family member. It is important for companies to adhere to the law by ensuring this provision of the law is incorporated in their policies.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
The ADA mandates companies not to discriminate against employees with disabilities.
Companies must ensure to give employees with disability leave for medical reasons. This ensures companies do not engage in workplace discrimination against employees with disabilities. This is a compulsory legal requirement for companies.
The Federal Employees’ Compensation Act (FECA)
This law ensures that employees who get injured in their workplace are compensated. It is a compulsory requirement for companies to include this in their policies. For example, providing benefits like medical care and wages.
The Fair Labor Standards Act
This law ensures companies follow the basic requirements concerning wages and work hours.
Companies need to manage employees’ leave of absence using the best existing practices. It encourages great work-life balance and also promotes a non-toxic work environment. There is also bound to be great productivity in such a workplace.