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Is Your Company’s Employee Leave Policy Too Rigid?

By / May 12, 2015 / Employee Handbooks and Workplace Policies No Comments

Is Your Company's Employee Leave Policy Too Rigid?

Creating an employee leave policy may seem easy at first — you decide whether to offer paid time off and pick a number of days to offer employees. There’s more to it, though.

While most employers understand the importance of encouraging time off so people can rest and recharge, things can get complicated when employees exhaust their leave due to illness or injury. If your leave policy is too rigid, you may face consequences you didn’t foresee.

Here are some things to consider when deciding if your company’s leave policy is too inflexible.

Understand the Relevant Laws

The first step to creating any employee leave policy is to understand the laws that apply to your business.  You need to ensure your organization’s policy will not contradict any state or federal laws. Some states forbid “use it or lose it” policies for paid vacation days, for example. And about half of states require paying out any remaining paid time off when an employee leaves the organization.

Next, carefully consider how you want to coordinate the leave you offer as an employee benefit with other types of leave required by law. For example, short-term disability and other paid leaves can run at the same time as leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act. If you want to require that, include it in the policy.

Finally, remember that a leave policy must provide “reasonable accommodation” for employees with disabilities under the Americans with Disabilities Act. An automatic termination once leave is exhausted, for example, has been deemed a violation of that law in some instances.

Don’t Create Problems for Yourself

A leave policy that’s difficult to manage from an administrative standpoint is frustrating to both management and employees. Policies such as requiring a doctor’s note to take a sick day can be an example of an administratively intricate policy that may be a burden for everyone involved. If your employees have a history of misusing sick time, for example, it may be appropriate, but consider carefully whether it’s a policy your company really needs.

Communicate the Reasons

In some cases, policies that employees see as inflexible are simply communicated ineffectively. For example, it is often difficult for retailers to give people time off between October and January because of the holiday shopping season. Leave policies that are in place to establish an appropriate level of staffing may not be seen as so inflexible if employees understand the reasons behind the rules.

Find a Balance

If possible, find out what other employers in your industry or geographic area include in their leave policies. At the same time, consider what your company can support and what’s sustainable over the long term. You may want to implement caps on the amount of leave employees can accrue, for example, to ensure you’re not hit with a large payout when the employee leaves

As you put your policy together, remember why you offer paid time off: It’s a benefit employers use to attract and retain top talent. Time off for vacations lets people relax and recharge, and leave benefits can provide peace of mind in times of serious illness or injury. Putting together a leave policy requires careful thought of all factors and a thorough knowledge of the laws that apply to your business.

Contact us for help creating an employee leave policy that will work for your business and its people.

HR Solutions is a human resources outsourcing firm based in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. We eliminate human resources headaches for businesses with 10 to 1,000 employees by handling their payroll, employee benefits, regulatory compliance and other staffing needs. Contact us to learn how we can streamline your company’s human resources function to save money and reduce risk.


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