The process of managing leaves of absence can be a challenge for small businesses. Job protected leaves of absence include Paid Family Leave (PFL), Family Medical Leave (FMLA), Statutory and Short-Term Disability, and in some cases, Long Term Disability. Some companies often adopt a casual approach to their employees’ filing claims for state and federal leaves of absence. Perhaps to avoid cumbersome paperwork, companies sometimes encourage employees to work remotely rather than apply for Paid Family Leave to which the employee is entitled (in New York State).
Other companies take the best practice approach of assisting the employees in using all the state and company benefits that are available to them. It may appear that the process is simplified when remote work or PTO is used to replace legal leave benefits. In actuality, an employer is denying the employee the opportunity to use the benefits that they have earned and met the eligibility requirements to use. It’s important for businesses to have a clear policy in place and documented in their employment and benefits manuals regarding the different leave options, so that employees know what to expect and what benefits are available to them. Some factors that businesses may consider when deciding on how to approach an employee requesting to use leave include:
- The nature of the business: Some businesses, such as hospitals and emergency services, may need to remain operational despite an employee being approved for a leave of absence. You can request that employees give as much advance notice as possible so you can adjust your staffing so as not to cause a disruption within your organization.
- The safety of employees: Employers have a responsibility to ensure that their employees are safe physically and mentally. If you see or are notified of an employee experiencing a physical or mental need, it may be a good idea to speak with the employee and inform them of what benefits they have available to them and offer assistance so they can recover from whatever the situation may be and return to work as soon as possible.
- The impact on the business: If many employees are unable to come to work due to a personal medical issue or a family member that is ill, and they were not informed of any benefits that may assist financially and/or offer job protection, it may reflect poorly with the other employees within your organization.
The various leaves of absence and benefits afforded to employees under each can be confusing – an alphabet soup of acronyms! It is recommended that you work closely with ESC’s Leave Management Specialists to help navigate through eligibility, compliance requirements, and the process of working with the employee and insurance carriers. Please contact us if our team can help your business manage leaves.