As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to ravage countries around the world, health and safety protocols have been strictly enforced everywhere to prevent the disease from spreading. Part of these…continue reading
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What Is a Leave of Absence?
Through filing for a leave of absence, an employee take a break from work without risking the continuity of his or her employment and benefits. Employers let their people get some rest as long as they report back after a specified time. Depending on the circumstances, the absence can be planned or unplanned. While it makes sense to let the person rest at home when he or she is sick, leave benefits also include the employee’s right to take a vacation. The government has set policies regarding allowing the workers to file for a leave of absence. However, the terms and conditions that govern the application are generally dependent on what is indicated in the employment contract.
Reasons to Take a Break
For a company to hit its target revenue, it relies on the work that its employees put in. However, people still have the right to consider their health and well-being first. According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, illness and injury were the leading cause of employee absences. If a sick employee reports to work, he or she might make his or her healthier co-workers sick, too. And even if the employee is healthy, he or she should still be allowed to take a break upon request. It is a practice for companies to grant paid leave of absences to their employees. It encourages workers to take a needed rest when they have to. But emergency and non-emergency circumstances may exceed the allowed number of days when employees still receive pay. Then, the employees can file for an unpaid leave. There are different reasons why a person would request to be absent from work.
Ill Effect of Absences
Employees are key players of any business’ success. But you should not view them as mere tools to your company’s end. Successful companies make sure that their employees are happy and growing in the workplace. Employee satisfaction by catering to the employees’ needs reduces instances of turnover and demotivated workers. These needs include rest days, whether planned or unplanned. As much as we want to provide them an empathetic environment, we also need employees to honor the terms and conditions of the employment agreement.
One of the provisions in the agreement talks about putting in a specific number of hours or output. Compliance to company policy on attendance and notices is another example. Presence in the workplace does not always equal productivity. But, it influences the employee’s productivity and output. It can also mean more work for other employees to make up for the work that could be lost. When this decrease in productivity accumulates, the company will be hit with losses.
Covering for the work lost does not come free. You will pay an extra amount to workers who work overtime. When the absent employee filed for a paid leave, you are also obliged to pay him or her. This is despite the zero contribution to productivity for the duration of the leave. Production may also be derailed if people who regularly perform specialized tasks are not around. Absences can increase your cost of production. If your revenue does not increase, your company would earn less.
How to Manage Employee Absences
Abuse of leave absences, disregard for company policy, and chronic absenteeism in the office are not good for your business. Turning a blind eye to frequent misdemeanors will dent your company’s productivity and profit. However, that doesn’t mean that you should prohibit employees from taking a break. By accounting for and managing absences in the workplace, you can address issues, encourage good work ethic, and reframe goals. Here are ways that you can attend to both the company and the employees’ interests and welfare.
Step 1: Implement an Attendance Policy
Rules have no teeth if they are not enforced properly. Specify your company’s attendance policy on the employment contract. The policy should indicate the employee’s work schedule, the company’s rules on absences and tardiness, and the processes involved with regards to attendance. It should elaborate on the terms and conditions of leave benefits, like what constitutes a valid excuse. Be specific about the scope and definitions of the attendance policy. The company should also be firm and consistent in implementing the rules. From the moment the employee is hired, establish what the expected decorum is in the workplace.
Step 2: Make Processes Fair and Easy
Complicated processes tend to dissuade people from following the procedures. Maybe the reason why your employees are not availing of their leave benefits is that you make it hard for them to do so. Your workers might not be agreeable to the terms and conditions in the agreement. Or maybe filing for a planned break takes so much unnecessary effort. The hierarchy of approval might be confusing. Employees should enjoy their rights without much hassle. Instead of having them write too many letters, just print leave of absence forms. You can download the application forms from the templates we provided. And instead of having too many point persons, reduce the approval line to just the necessary persons who will sign the form.
Step 3: Monitor Absences and Tardiness
When you have a big company, it is harder to keep track of everyone’s attendance. You need a strategic attendance plan to handle this task. You can use helpful tools such as a biometrics gadget that doubles as a timekeeping device. You can download the data from the device at the end of every pay period. You should also keep accurate and complete records of employee absences. The attendance record should reflect the absences and lates that the person has incurred. When misconduct becomes a pattern, you can address it early on. For instance, John Doe is notorious for being frequently absent from work. By keeping tabs on his excuses, you learn that his father died three times in the past year.
Step 4: Act on Discrepancies Immediately
John Doe’s case brings us to step four. Address any discrepancy that you found right away. Unchecked prolonged absences is detrimental to the company, in terms of resources and productivity. Maybe the person has not returned from work yet past the specified date on his or her LOA. You can check in with the person if he or she is alright, and you can provide interventions when necessary. The employee might be having issues that your company may be able to help with. By recognizing and dealing with misdemeanors and problems earlier, you can provide solutions that will save the company’s time and resources. It also leaves an impression on the employees that such actions will not be tolerated.
Step 5: Review and Update Policy
Your attendance policy should not be set in stone. Observe the effect of the policy on the practices in the workplace. If there is still room for changes, review and revise the rules. For example, the company’s sick time policy may need reviewing since employees have a hard time following it. You may want to change the procedure for notices after seeing that it is not convenient for the workers. The advice and templates you find online may fit one company and not another. Therefore, conduct regular evaluations on the needs of your company and its employees. Make the appropriate changes when necessary.
How long can an employee be on leave?
An FMLA gives a maximum of 12 weeks of rest due to serious illness. The duration of the other types of leave of absence is under the discretion of the company.
Is depression, stress, or anxiety a valid excuse for LOA?
Yes. The employee can take a break when he or she feels the need to. That is as long as the person is qualified for an FMLA and he or she has leave credits left. When the person feels that his or her situation hinders work performance, the person can request for a stress leave. The employee’s physician has to recommend for the stress leave before the company can grant the request.
Can I fire a person during his or her leave of absence?
Generally, you can’t fire a person during FMLA, pregnancy leave or similar leave type. But there are a few exceptions. If the company is undergoing a layoff, the said person’s employment may be terminated. If the leave of absence is not valid, or they did not file for one, it is also a ground for termination.
When do I ask for a doctor’s note?
The answer varies, depending on the circumstance of the leave request. The medical note verifies if the employee has visited his physician and was recommended to take a rest from work. The company cannot ask for the specifics of the illness. When the employee is filing for an FMLA, the company can request a doctor’s note. Some leave request concerning health also lets the company ask for medical certification that the employee is well enough to work.
Anything good in excess can be a bad thing. For instance, a zealous commitment to the job can result in overworking. As employees need to take a breather once in a while, businesses should encourage their employees to rest and relax. But a business should also be mindful of employees who don’t follow the proper conduct on attendance. It is up to the company to enforce and strengthen their policies concerning attendance but at the same time to remain empathetic of their employees’ needs.