employee leave management - practice pointer

February 12, 2024

Creating an employee leave management process to address employee needs while meeting legal requirements can be challenging and complex to navigate. To make things more complicated, leave programs are constantly expanding and evolving with new legislation and emerging trends in managing human resources. Therefore, your business should take the time to carefully design, plan, and allocate the necessary budget for this program to be successful.

When designing employee leave policies, you might think a single extensive general policy will cover any situation, but there are many layers to leave management, and it requires clearly written guidelines. These policies ensure that employees understand their rights and obligations and reduce the risk of disputes or grievances. Your business should review your policies regularly to ensure they are up-to-date and compliant. During your review, consider the following: federal requirements, state and local regulations, and your current leave policies.

Meeting Federal Requirements

There are many Federal regulations and laws your business might need to comply with. Today we’ll discuss three key Acts that can apply to most companies.

The number of employees you have matters. If you have 50 or more, you must implement the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which provides eligible employees job protection with up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave per year for specific medical and family-related reasons.

If you think your business is off the hook because you are too small, think again. While smaller companies may not be required to provide FMLA, anyone who employs 15 or more people must comply with the American Disabilities Act. This law includes a medical leave of absence as reasonable accommodation.

There are also requirements regarding military leave. While FMLA addresses covered employers, Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) applies to all employers regardless of headcount. The USERRA allows employees who notify their employer to generally take up to five years of non-consecutive leave for uniformed service, including active and inactive duty, training, fitness-for-duty examinations, and funeral honors duty. Since USERRA doesn’t define how long the consecutive leave can be, it is wise to define it in your company’s policy to avoid any potential abuse.

Assessing State Legislation Impacts

Navigating state employee leave laws is more challenging as they vary nationwide. Knowing each state’s specific requirements is important if you have employees in multiple states. More and more states are passing paid leave programs, including parental, bereavement, and even expanding qualified reasons for leave. Also, specific local, county or city governments may affix additional leave requirements that must be included; it is essential to evaluate all these details as you start to develop your policies.

Designing Your Policies

Armed with the above collected information, you can start creating clear written policies to meet both legislative requirements and your employees’ needs. Here are a few questions to get you started:

  • Is your parental leave policy still defined as “maternity” and “paternity?” Has it been updated to reflect the EEOC’s preference to be more general and written to focus on primary and secondary caregivers?
  • Do you provide any required state paid sick time?
  • Is your military leave policy equitable to other leave policies you have?
  • How do all your different leave policies interplay?

The answers to these questions will help you balance regulatory requirements with your business’ needs while developing your leave policy.  If the task seems daunting, consider consulting with HR professionals. Organizations like Hilb Group have the expertise and experience to assist companies with the many requirements and nuances of leave management.

Administering the Leave

When a particular scenario arises you must have all necessary details required in order to apply the correct leave type and ensure compliance with the variety of leave laws that may be applicable:

  • Identify the situation — employee status, length of employment, type of leave needed
  • What do applicable Federal laws dictate in this situation?
  • What do applicable State laws or regulations require for this type of leave? 
  • Is there any specific local county or city governance that impacts employee leave? 
  • What does the company’s policy currently state? 

As you can see, there are many factors affecting how your employee leave management program should be designed, and the process is often not easy. If you have any questions or need assistance with creating an employee leave management policy for your business or have questions regarding this Practice Pointer, please email us.

This content is provided with the understanding that Hilb Group is not rendering legal advice. While every effort is made to provide current information, the law changes regularly and laws may vary depending on the state or municipality. The material is made available for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for legal advice or your professional judgment. You should review applicable laws in your jurisdiction and consult experienced counsel for legal advice. If you have any questions regarding this content, please contact the Hilb Group HR Consulting Practice.

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