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Employee Leave of Absence Checklist

By Amanda Neely

December 2021

An employee may request leave for various reasons, including severe medical conditions or significant family changes. Employers need to be ready for these requests with an employee leave of absence checklist.

A leave of absence is more than just an extended vacation, and the type of leave of absence depends on the employee’s situation. Examples of leave types include bereavement, maternity or parental leave, paid or unpaid sabbatical, family care, and medical leave. Regardless of the leave of absence requested, there are different rules and regulations in place to ensure compliance from all parties.

Federal regulations cover some types of leave at companies, but not all. For example, sabbaticals are not protected by a federal law requiring this leave. Still, many companies will offer this leave after an employee has been with an organization for a certain amount of time. 

This employee leave of absence checklist can help HR professionals to prepare for an employee’s leave, support them during their break, and welcome them back to work.

Preparing for an Employee Leave Of Absence

When preparing for an employee’s leave, it’s essential to have the following knowledge and documentation:

  • Employees are eligible for leave for the following reasons:
    • Birth and care of their newborn child
    • If an employee is welcoming a child of adoption home or for foster care
    • Caring for an immediate family member (spouse, child, or parent) with severe health conditions
    • Medical leave due to a severe health condition
  • Employees must have worked for the employer for at least 12 months or 1,250 hours to be eligible.
  • According to the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), eligible employees are allowed up to 12-weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave per year.
  • If the employee has experienced pregnancy complications, that time can be counted against the 12 weeks of leave.
  • Suppose the employee has a close family member who is a covered servicemember with a serious injury or illness. In that case, eligible employees may take up to 26 workweeks of leave during a 12-month period.
  • Employees usually should request leave at least 30 days in advance when the leave is for the foreseeable future.
    • If an unexpected leave occurs (family emergency or bereavement leave), an employee should notify their employee as soon as they can.
  • Gather all paperwork needed to ensure the employee’s leave status is initiated when their leave is scheduled to begin.

While Your Employee Is on Leave

Now that an employee’s leave of absence has been approved, there are still crucial steps that HR leaders should take to ensure a smooth transition.

  • Create an open line of communication for employees to share changes and updates regarding their return to work.
  • Oversee the employee’s leave status and documentation to ensure that everything has been processed smoothly.
  • When it is closer to the time the employees return to work, gather the forms needed to reinstate their work status.
  • Connect with the employee about two to three weeks before their scheduled return date to confirm their return.
    • If an employee requests an extension on their leave, there are no federal guidelines currently in place. Therefore, employers and HR leaders will have to make a fair decision based on the employee’s decision and the business’s needs.

Welcoming Your Employee Back to Work

Assuming that the employee did not ask for an extension, their leave is done, and they are now ready to return to work. It can be difficult to integrate back; however, the following should provide a smoother transition.

  • Set a time to review employee systems and reinstatement needs prior to the employee’s first day back.
  • Schedule the employee’s return date for midweek instead of beginning or end. 
  • Send, collect, and file all the required documentation to reinstate the employee’s employment status.
    • If the employee’s leave was due to a medical condition, ask the employee for a notice from their doctor ensuring that they are fit to return to work.
  • Set aside some time to check in with the employee to ensure no reservations, roadblocks, etc., affect their productivity.
  • Encourage the employee to ease back into the workflow rather than dive headfirst into their tasks.

The workplace is a constantly changing place, and no matter how long an employee’s leave lasts, HR leaders can ensure a smooth process from the moment that request comes in all the way through after the employee returns. This employee leave of absence checklist can help HR teams be better prepared for any situation.

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