Recent Trends in Human Resource Management

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Managing Leave—Annoying for Sure, But Doable

Managing Leave—Annoying for Sure, But Doable

"Never let manager deal with leave requests," says one expert, but that's easier said than done. For every HR manager who doesn't have a leave specialist on staff, here are Bob Gilson's tips for dealing with leave requests.

Gilson, an expert on employee relations, offers his tips on FedSmith.com, where he is a frequent blogger. Here's what he recommends:

1. Learn the Basic Rules

This means your organization's policies for vacation, sick leave or paid time off (PTO) system, Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), worker's compensation, and other types of leave. If your employees operate under a union contract, be familiar with leave-related provisions of the contract.

2. Get a Grip on the FMLA

With the new changes to the FMLA, this is especially important. Many of the changes will ultimately be beneficial to employers, but most organizations are in the process of changing their policies and procedures, especially dealing with notice from and to employees.

3. Assemble a Paper or E-File for Reference

Create a folder (paper or online) of leave rules, forms, and so on, and keep it all in one place where you can get to it quickly when employees request leave, recommends Gilson.

4. Set Clear Expectations

Make sure the people you supervise also have copies of your organization's leave rules, says Gilson. Send them a memo emphasizing the important provisions such as the procedures for requesting various types of leave, what forms to use, and what the rules are for calling in during leave or to request time off.

5. Remind Your Staff of Expectations Regularly

It's not enough to tell employees once on the day they are hired about your requirements. Remind people of the rules at staff meetings. Don't discuss any specific employee's situation but do, in a general way, encourage employees to follow the rules, Gilson says.

6. Enforce the Rules

Make sure employees who exhibit any kind of attendance problem get a response from you, says Gilson. Of course, take circumstances into account, but at the same time, let the employee know that you noticed the infraction and that you are prepared to enforce the rules.

7. Require a Written Request

Get your people used to using a form, says Gilson. It's habit-forming and it keeps everybody straight.

8. Track Leave Usage

You need to track usage just for management purposes, but there's also another good reason, Gilson suggests. Only careful tracking will reveal potential abusers. For example, you might find someone with no chronic, documented condition who often requests sick leave on Mondays, Fridays, and days before holidays.

If you suspect abuse, says Gilson, talk to your HR manager. But remember, documentation is the key to resolving attendance and leave problems.

9. Question Inconsistent or Improper Requests

Call employees on it when their leave requests appear inconsistent with their documented conditions, or if vacation leave is requested at the last minute when heavy workloads or deadlines are imminent, says Gilson. It's important to let people know that you are paying attention.

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