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January 27, 2020 | HR Compliance | Posted by Barbara Trumbly

Keeping your Business Running While Complying with Family-Friendly Policies

A growing number of states and municipalities have enacted significant family-related - employment-related legislation including paid sick leave laws, parental leaves, pregnancy disability leave and lactation breaks. 

Employers are extremely challenged when it comes to tracking and complying with rapidly changing leave laws and are having difficulty handling the administrative burden of managing employee leaves. Employers often state they are confused on what federal, state, and/or local leave law requirements apply to specific employee situations.  Administering paid sick leave and paid family leave is particularly problematic. 

Traditional techniques for managing leave of absence policies can be slow and inaccurate, placing businesses at risk for failing to adhere to federal and state laws. Using software or outsourcing leave administration can alleviate the administrative burden on companies and help ensure consistency and objectivity in the treatment of employees, which is a wise choice for the busy business owner or manager. 

Not only will software or outsourcing alleviate the workload placed on the administrative staff, freeing up valuable time for other tasks, it will ensure that leave of absences and attendance policies are strictly adhered to and tracked.  

Strategy for Handling a Leave of Absence

No matter what size organization or type of industry, employers will have to deal with a leave of absence at some point, so what’s the strategy to keep your business running while complying with the relevant legislation, including any state or local laws? 

First, start with a detailed plan of how to administer the leave and who will do what in the event that one – or more – employees are on a leave of absence. This isn’t the policy in your employee handbook – this is a program for managers to follow that will provide them with a plan that will keep their department and the company running.  

Often employers do not gather the needed information regarding the leave such as when will be the first day away from the office? Is the leave intermittent or continuous? If intermittent, what days and hours can the employee work? When will the employee return? Employers tend to wait until the employee is walking out the door or already on leave before they start making plans. 

Leaves of absence can be short in duration or extend for many months, so you need to create an explicit, written policy that states how your business gathers the information and handles leaves of absence. Hold a series of orientations for managers, including coverage planning strategies and how employees and managers can work together to ensure smooth coordination. 

Schedule a time to meet with the employee and discuss a plan of action regarding the employees upcoming leave of absence and gather the relevant answers as to the duration, timing of the leave and training for their replacement while on leave. 

Create a plan to cover the job responsibilities of employees when they are on leave. Require all employees to request leave in advance whenever possible. This will give you time to make arrangements 

Institute an ongoing cross-training program so that essential tasks can be completed with minimal disruption.  Reapportioning job responsibilities among co-workers is the most common strategy for covering for the absent employee. Although this may not always be feasible for a small business. In a small company there may be only a few people, who would be overworked or have to put in overtime hours if they take on the workload of an absent employee.  If that is the case, hire a temporary worker. Temporary help is a strategy for managing leaves that can work for even very small businesses. If you have cross-trained personnel, they can take on essential tasks while the temporary worker carries out routine duties. 

Other Options

For intermittent leaves, many companies will offer flexible-work options. This may involve working from home, switching to a part-time schedule or a variety of other arrangements. 

Job sharing may be an alternative for employees that have family obligations such as childcare, aging parents, or the need to take care of other family responsibilities. Two or more employees may share a single position, by each working a fraction of the necessary time. In that way, people can hold, or continue to hold, the position they want, and still have time to spend attending to family needs. 

Temporary or permanent switch to part-time may help with the unexpected leaves and constant need to fill in for someone who is absent.  This may be for an employee who is experiencing an illness or a new mother who may want to switch to part-time for the first year of her baby's life, in order to bond and spend time with the c and adjust to the demands of parenthood. 

While an employee is on leave, work still must run and hopefully, smoothly. Neglecting to outline procedures for leaves of absence can cause chaos, confusion and undue stress. 

Having clear guidelines in place that cover a wide variety of absences will keep things running smoothly when it comes to attendance. 

Employees will appreciate having a solid policy in place in the event that they feel a leave of absence is needed. Putting accessible and easy to follow plans in place for employees to request a leave of absence will raise morale, improve overall attendance and reduce turnover rates. 

Keeping a consistent leave policy in place that covers as many circumstances as possible will help create a better work environment for everyone involved and keep your business running. 

Please see our updated comprehensive guide to HR compliance!

Barbara is a human resource consultant providing outsourced human resources services to successful businesses throughout California in various industries including high tech, insurance agencies, law firms, medical, marketing, and finance. Barbara holds a Juris Doctor Degree from Northwestern California University, is certified as a Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR/SHRM-SCP)