What To Do When Employees Miss Important Leave of Absence Deadlines

Like juggling porcelain dolphin figurines or realizing halfway through dinner that your date is related to your ex, managing an employee leave of absence is a delicate affair. On one hand, you want to deliver empathy and support and the grace to manage what’s transpiring in their personal lives, but on the other hand, there are important steps and requirements that can be time-sensitive and have ramifications on a successful leave of absence.

The Consequences of Missing LOA Deadlines

When life is cruising right along according to plan it can still be overwhelming to cross all the t’s and dot all the lower-case j’s of adulting. When life requires a leave of absence from work, it tends to take your normal to-do lists, put them in a blender, and in some cases blow them up entirely.

This becomes critical in nature as a successful and supported leave of absence requires quite a few t’s to be crossed and lower-case j’s to be dotted right when life is going a bit cray. When an employee misses deadlines for submitting FMLA or parental leave paperwork, for example, there can be several consequences, which may vary depending on your company’s specific policies and the specific circumstances of the leave. Here are some potential consequences an employee may face:

Delay or Denial of Leave: Missing deadlines may result in a delay in the approval and processing of the leave request. In some cases, you, as the employer, might even deny the leave if the paperwork is not submitted within the specified timeframe.

Loss of Job Protection: If FMLA eligible, timely submission of FMLA paperwork is crucial for securing job protection during the leave period. If your employee fails to submit the required documentation on time, they may risk losing the job protection provided by the FMLA.

Loss of Pay or Benefits: Failure to submit paperwork on time may result in a delay in the commencement of leave, leading to a loss of pay or benefits during the period when the leave was intended to start.

Impact on Co-workers and Operations: If an employee’s leave is not properly planned and documented, it can disrupt your operational workflow and create challenges for co-workers who may need to cover the absent employee’s responsibilities. This can impact overall operations and team productivity.

Ineligibility for Certain Benefits: Some benefits, such as short-term disability or other company-provided benefits, may be contingent on proper documentation and adherence to leave policies. Failure to submit paperwork on time may result in the employee being ineligible for certain benefits.

How Employers Can Ensure Leave of Absence Deadlines are Met

Now that we’ve covered why hitting LOA deadlines is important, let’s discuss how you can better ensure those deadlines aren’t missed and what to do if they are. Frequent, proactive, and productive communication will be the major themes here. 

Here are some steps that you can consider:

Communicate Clearly and Promptly: If an employee has yet to submit their required paperwork, reach out to the employee as soon as possible to remind them of the upcoming deadline. Have them verify that they understand when the deadline is and the consequences of missing the deadline. Underscore the importance of timely submission of leave paperwork and the impact it may have on the organization’s processes as well as payroll.

Tilt tip: Learning about payroll impacts tends to be a big motivator.

Understand the Reason: Communication isn’t always about telling. Sometimes it’s about asking. If paperwork has been delayed or a deadline missed, inquire about the reason for the delay in paperwork submission. There might be personal or work-related issues that are hindering the process.

Provide Assistance: Remember the blender analogy up top? Well there’s a good chance your employees want to submit their leave paperwork, but when you learn more about their situation, you should consider stepping in and helping out. 

Offer assistance or guidance to the employee if they are facing challenges in completing the paperwork. This may include explaining the process, providing necessary forms, or offering support in gathering required documentation. This not only helps them meet their deadlines, but improves employee satisfaction in the process as they’ll get a stronger sense that their employer has their back in a time of need.

Document the Situation: As with most things leave-of-absence-related, documentation is your friend. Document your communication with the employee requesting leave, and any agreements you may have reached with them. This documentation can be important for reference if the issue persists or if there are further complications.

Policy Reminder: Remind the employee of your policies regarding leave of absence and deadlines. Reinforce the importance of adhering to these policies for the smooth operation of the organization.

Escalate if Necessary: If your employee continues to miss deadlines, and the situation is impacting operations, you may need to escalate the matter to higher management or follow any escalation procedures outlined in your organization’s policies.

Review and Improve Processes: After resolving the immediate issue, review your leave request and approval processes to identify any areas for improvement. This may include clarifying communication, simplifying procedures, or providing additional training.

The Purpose of a Leave of Absence Deadline Process

When addressing missed deadlines for employee leave of absence paperwork, adopting a constructive and collaborative approach is paramount. The objective is not merely punitive; rather, it involves fostering a positive and communicative work environment. By understanding the reasons behind the missed deadline, you can tailor your response to the specific circumstances, acknowledging that employees may face personal or work-related challenges.

Open communication is the cornerstone of resolving leave-related issues. Encouraging employees to express their reasons for the delay enables you to provide targeted assistance, whether it be clarification of procedures, additional resources, or guidance through the paperwork process. A supportive atmosphere, where employees feel comfortable seeking help, not only mitigates the immediate issue but also contributes to long-term employee satisfaction and engagement.

Furthermore, collaboration between People Ops and the employee is crucial. Setting new, realistic deadlines in consultation with the employee ensures a commitment that both parties can uphold. This collaborative effort reinforces a sense of shared responsibility and accountability. Ultimately, a constructive and collaborative approach transforms a potential setback into an opportunity for mutual growth, emphasizing the importance of understanding and teamwork within the organizational framework.

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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