By Frances Trant, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, Senior Consultant
There are best practices for Leave Administration that can dramatically improve the leave process for both employees and employers. Following are two best practices for Leave Administration.
Do you have situations where employees “disappear” and you don’t hear from them for a few months, except to receive a regular stream of medical notices indicating they cannot work? This is a good example where regular communication between the employee and supervisor is important.
When employees are not at work due to health issues not related to pregnancy/child care leave (since this type of leave is generally for a known period compared to illness and injuries that have individual timelines), it is a best practice to ensure:
- FMLA documentation is provided to the employee after five days of absence even if the days are scattered over a month or two; and,
- Documentation, i.e. a letter provided to the employee should include the requirement for the employee to check in on a regular basis with their immediate supervisor. Suggested check in times can be weekly for short term leaves, and every two weeks for leave periods over two months.
Despite some supervisors feeling it is intrusive to “check in” with absent employees, it is a good practice to have regular contact between supervisor and employee, so the employee remains connected to work and their supervisor has ongoing status of their employee’s situation. This helps the supervisor plan for extended absences, and/or get ready to integrate the returning employee back into the workforce, particularly if they need to make plans for light duty assignments.
Whether your organization has this regular contact spelled out in policy or regulations, it is wise to ensure the supervisor is aware of their responsibilities to stay in touch with their absent employees.
Do you have situations with some employees who are chronically late and/or absent to the point that they have used up all their accrued leave and are in regular leave without pay (LWOP) status?
Some supervisors do not like confronting these situations. However, a “Constructive Counseling” conversation needs to be held between the supervisor and the employee as soon as a pattern of one to two months of this poor attendance behavior becomes evident. The employee needs to understand that they are engaged to provide essential services to the citizens of their region and being at work, and on time, except for really needed and/or planned absences, is a requirement of their job. Supervisors need to “track and trend” the tardiness and/or absences of their employees so that the conversations are based on the facts of attendance data, not the feelings of the supervisor with regards to their personal point of view.
If poor attendance seems to be a problem, documenting the meetings where this issue has been discussed is very important particularly if progressive discipline may eventually have to be put into action. Another reason for documenting the meetings is that the individual demonstrating these challenges needs to be provided with Employee Assistance Program (EAP) resources, and possibly be placed on Family and Medical Leave. If the employee does not seem to be able to change their attendance/tardiness patterns, then the supervisor must inform them through written warnings that this behavior must improve immediately. This means that they are being placed on the progressive discipline track and supervisors must be vigilant to ensure they have provided timelines to improve attendance/timeliness at work; and have officially provided EAP contact information and directed the employee to meet with the agency’s employee who provides confidential FMLA paperwork.
Constructive Counseling conversations either end with the employee turning around and moving in the right direction, or the employee being disciplined out of the public sector. Congratulations to supervisors who have been able to get employees to understand the need to come to work to deliver the services for which they have been hired! As for the supervisors who end up having to do the heavy lifting necessary to get the person to leave, you have sent a very clear message to your team that attendance is a key responsibility and other employees will take notice that attendance is important to you and your organization.