Streamlining Employee Leave Process

Clarifying Leave of Absence Policies

Scroll down to read more!

Clarifying Leave of Absence Policies

Scroll down to read more!
Streamlining Employee Leave Process

Table of Contents

I was recently talking with an employee to go over his leave rights. He found out his mom was very sick and needed to travel out of state to be with her. He planned to leave the next day, so we were talking by phone as he was packing his bag. I started throwing out an alphabet soup of leave terms (FMLA, CFRA and PFL) as the employee was throwing his belongings into a suitcase and trying to book a last-minute plane ticket online.

By the time I’d finished my standard leave speech, the employee wasn’t sure what, if any, leave he qualified for and was concerned he wouldn’t be able to take care of his mother without losing his job. I had explained the policies clearly, but to employees who have never taken leave before, it can all become a confusing puzzle of terms and dates. When I later talked to the employee’s manager about the situation, the manager was also confused about an employer’s obligation in this situation.

This is a common occurrence when discussing leaves of absence. Typically when someone needs to take leave, they are dealing with a stressful situation (e.g. serious medical condition, caring for an ill family member, spending time with a family member on leave from active military duty). Those situations are challenging enough without having to navigate the confusing waters of the various state and federal leave acts.

Therefore, while it is vital that HR professionals thoroughly explain an employee’s leave rights, it is also important that we give employees the tools to make the leave process easier.

Know Your State’s Leave Laws

In California we have the California Family Rights Act (CFRA) and Pregnancy Disability Leave (PDL), which often run concurrently with the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and provide additional protections. For example, under the FMLA employers can ask for details about an employee’s diagnosis; however, CFRA forbids California employers from asking details about an employee’s diagnosis. This means that California employers should not use the sample forms provided by the Department of Labor. Doing so will require the employee to provide information that is against the law in California. Be sure to know if your state has similar provisions.

It’s important that HR is also aware of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) accommodation guidelines as well as any state requirements for accommodating disabled workers. Some accommodations may require providing additional leave time even if an employee does not qualify for FMLA.

Training Managers

At my company, our HR department is located in the main office. We support six grocery stores, so we rely on managers to let us know when employees are off work for reasons that may qualify for leave. Shortly after starting at my current company, I was verifying timecards and noticed that an employee had not been at work for a couple of weeks. I called the employee’s manager to discuss the discrepancy. The manager stated the employee had been in the hospital and was at home recovering. He said the employee planned to use her paid time off to cover the time she missed; therefore, the manager thought he didn’t need to notify HR that the employee was off work for an extended amount of time due to a serious medical condition.

Of course, this is the kind of situation that makes those of us in HR groan with frustration. Even if an employee is using paid time off during their leave, it is important that we make both employees and managers aware of leave rights, so we are in compliance with state and federal law.

It’s not necessary to go through the details of all the different leave laws with managers (that is the job of the HR department). Instead focus on training them on recognizing reasons that may qualify for leave (e.g. an employee having surgery, an employee caring for a seriously ill family member, pregnancy, birth of a child, bonding with a new child). I remind managers that they don’t have to worry about determining eligibility, but they are responsible for contacting HR as soon as they hear about a potential leave situation.

It is essential that managers understand an employer’s responsibility to notify employees of leave rights and to direct them to the appropriate HR staff to answer any questions they may have. After providing training to managers, I have received a lot more calls from them about situations that might be leave.

Making the Process Easy for Employees

To make the process easier, I developed a system to help employees better understand their leave rights and responsibilities. Once an employee understands their rights, the biggest questions often seem to be about what paperwork they need to complete. The letters to employees required under the FMLA and similar state laws are a good start, but they are often detailed to the point where an employee may have a hard time figuring out their responsibilities. So, in addition to providing the required letters, I also give employees a checklist specific to their leave. This helps distill much of what is in the letter and becomes a quick reference tool for employees to use to ensure they’ve fulfilled their responsibilities. Your checklist should note any company forms you require, the certification from the healthcare provider, payment information for insurance and return-to-work forms. Note any relevant due dates.

When you meet with an employee about their leave, go through the checklist and each form. Allow time for questions and give the employee a way to contact you if they have questions later on. You should give them the required letter for their reference, but ultimately the checklist will be their guide.

In the End…

Leave laws are complicated, but managing leaves in your workplace doesn’t have to be. The key is to have a system in place that makes things easy to understand for managers and employees.

What works for you at your company? How do you make leave laws easier for your employees and managers to understand?

Did you like this post? Share it!

One Comment

Comments are closed.

A Word From Our Sponsors

Ads help make Workology resources free for everyone. We respect your privacy. To see our Privacy Policy click here.

Recommended Posts

12 Types of Paid and Unpaid Leave and Time Off

A list for the HR professional to be able to answer employee questions related to time off....
Places to visit while in Chicago for the #SHRM13

Top 10 Must Sees in Chicago During #SHRM24

Must Sees in Chicago at the 2024 SHRM Annual Conference We’ve taken the stress out of planning and done all the work for you....

The Debate on Social Media Policies and Disclaimers The Debate on Social Media Policies and Disclaimers The Debate on Social Media Policies and Disclaimers The Debate On Social Media Policies and Disclaimers

5 Employee Twitter Bio Disclaimers You Should Add Today

Learn the top five Twitter (X) bio disclaimers every HR professional needs to protect personal and professional interests on social media....

How to Calculate FLSA Overtime Pay

Understand the Fair Labor Standards Act and learn how to calculate FLSA overtime pay to avoid any mistakes....
Discover the Best of Chicago

Top 10 Things to do in Chicago

Check out our free Yoga for HR class and take a break from #shrm24 at www.yogaforhr.com. Top 10 Things to do in Chicago Chicago...

Successful SHRM recertification

Your Path to Successful SHRM Recertification

Navigate your SHRM recertification journey with our guide. Uncover the process, benefits, and tips for successful career advancement in HR....

Navigating Career Change: Transitioning from HR to a New Career Path

Thinking about leaving HR for a new career? It happens to the best of us. Here's what you should consider first....

Going Paperless: Transitioning to a PDF-Based Workflow for Enhanced Efficiency

Going Paperless: Transitioning to a PDF-Based Workflow for Enhanced Efficiency Every day, we juggle deadlines, manage information overload, and constantly seek ways to streamline...

Checkout Our Products

Ads help make Workology resources free for everyone. We respect your privacy. To see our Privacy Policy click here.

More From Workology

Navigating Career Change: Transitioning from HR to a New Career Path

Thinking about leaving HR for a new career? It happens to the best of us. Here's what you should consider first.

5 Effective Employee Training Methods for 2024

Click on read more to open this post on our blog.

HR Certification Podcast Episode 15: Reviewing Employment Law for HRCI & SHRM Exams

In this episode of the HR Certification Podcast, we review employment law topics including adverse impact and the four-fifths rule.
Yoga for HR

Breathe Out Chaos, Breathe In Peace: Yoga for HR

Check out our free, 30-minute "Yoga for HR" webinar and learn how to clear your mind of chaos and clutter through breathwork and stretching!