Best Practices for Crafting Comprehensive Leave of Absence Policies

While the term “crafting” is often used when conjuring up side hustle projects to sell on Pinterest, when it comes to comprehensive leave of absence policies, your ability to craft is going to rely a lot more on your understanding of leave laws, industry trends, and inclusivity than your skills with a glue gun.

When sitting down to develop your leave of absence policies, it’s best to come with the mindset of building and maintaining a fair yet efficient workplace. Ultimately, your policies should make it clear to your employees what their rights and responsibilities are when it comes to taking time off work, and be as inclusive as possible without being detrimental to your organization’s business objectives.

Let’s break down some best practices that will hopefully make this burdensome task a little easier.

Leave of Absence Policy Compliance

Studies show that the best way to keep readers’ eyeballs on a page is to talk about exciting topics…like policy compliance. The real reason why we’re kicking off this list by talking about compliance is that sometimes the most obvious best practices are the ones most often overlooked. 

You could have the most robust and inclusive company policies on the planet, but if you’ve ever had to deal with compliance risks associated with leaves of absence, then you know just how important it is to ensure that your policies also comply with federal, state, and local employment laws. Above all else, make sure your policies are crafted in such a way that you are legally compliant.

What Types of Leave Should a Company Policy Include?

The good ones! But not all the good ones! Wait, which are the good ones? The truth is that policies are going to vary from organization to organization, and in most instances, your desire as a People Ops leader to provide the most encompassing leave policies to your employee population is going to be at odds with a business objective or two.

Below is a list of some leave policies you should consider if you want to stay competitive as an employer while supporting your employees when they need to transition away from work. While incorporating the entire list may seem like a long shot, crafting a comprehensive policy is an art form that may take more than a glue gun to piece together over time.

Crafting your organization’s leave of absence policies has to make sense to your organization, of course, so the title of the policy itself is only half the battle. You need to determine what the policies will actually accomplish in a way that will positively impact your employees in a way that matters to them.

Which Leave of Absence Policies Matter to Employees?

Another best practice has less to do with the quantity of policies and more to do with the quality. A collaborative crafting approach is a fantastic way to involve your employees in the development of leave policies that truly resonate with their needs. Conduct surveys or hold open forums to gather input on existing policies and identify areas for improvement.

This approach ensures that policies are not only compliant with legal requirements but also reflect the diverse needs of your workforce. Not only that, involving employees in shaping leave policies builds trust, helps you identify potential biases in language, and leads to policies that genuinely address your employees’ concerns.

What Should a Leave of Absence Policy Include?

Each leave of absence type should clearly outline eligibility criteria, including how and when an employee can use that type of leave. It also needs to specify the maximum duration of each different leave and address how frequently employees can take leave and any restrictions on consecutive leave.

Money matters to your people, so each policy should clearly state which types of leave are paid and which are unpaid, and include information on how paid leave is accrued, used, and carried over from year to year (if applicable). Job protection also matters, so it’s important to clarify job protection rights for employees who take approved leave, especially for FMLA-eligible employees.

Crafting a Leave of Absence Process for Employees

A key element of a comprehensive leave of absence policy involves outlining the process employees should take when requesting and returning from a leave. Clearly outline the procedure for requesting leave, including advance notice requirements and the use of specific forms or channels for requests.

Explain who employees should be submitting leave of absence requests to (we recommend they submit to HR instead of their manager) and put in writing who will review and approve lsaid eave requests.

If documentation is required for an employee’s specific leave, make sure they understand exactly what they’re required to provide and by when. For state benefit programs the rules and regulations can vary wildly, so it’s important your policies remain up to date.

Have a mapped-out process for re-boarding so that employees and their managers are put in a position to have a successful team reintegration when a leave is complete. This last one is often overlooked, and depending on the leave can lead to organizations getting into hot water if an employee returns to work and their position isn’t at least equivalent to the one they left.

Similarly, the process must emphasize confidentiality. If an employee has reason to believe that the sensitive details of their leave were exposed to individuals who have no legal right to be in the know, your organization could face legal ramifications.

Communicating Leave of Absence Policies

Now that you know what policies you want to include and what each policy needs to say, all that’s left is effectively communicating what policies your employees are entitled to. Make the policies easy to understand by using clear and concise language with biases removed. 

Make access easy by providing your policies to your people in multiple formats (e.g., employee handbook, online portal) and ensure employees know where to find it. Establish a clear line of communication between your team, employees, and their managers, so all stakeholders in a leave are on the same page throughout the leave journey, and provide contact information for the members of your People Ops team who can assist with leave-related inquiries.

Another overlooked element of communication is training. Training your team as well as managers across your organization on the policies and legal requirements related to leaves of absence to ensure consistent implementation and adherence to the law.

Maintaining Your Leave of Absence Policies

Much like that picture frame with glitter and mirror and pieces of paper haphazardly hot-glued to the edges, your leave of absence policies should always be viewed as a work in progress. The key to maintaining your leave of absence policies is to regularly review them and seek out opportunities to improve them. 

Similarly, as we mentioned above, laws and regulations related to employee leaves are subject to change and often do, so staying current is essential to avoid legal pitfalls and penalties. Organizations evolve over time too, so as the needs of your workforce change so will their expectations, making it all the more crucial that your leave policies align with your employees’ work-life balance preferences.

About Tilt

Tilt is leading the charge in all things leave of absence management through easy-to-use tech and human touch. Since 2017, our proprietary platform and Empathy Warriors have been helping customers make leave not suck by eliminating administrative burdens, keeping companies compliant, and providing a truly positive and supportive leave of absence experience for their people.

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