PTO, FMLA, sick days, vacation days, time off, absenteeism… Leave management is a major component of HR management and employee scheduling, but it shouldn’t be an ongoing source of problems and conflict. Handle time off requests fairly and efficiently in order to keep the entire company working effectively.
With the right policies and HR software, leave management can better serve and support your entire workforce.
What is leave management?
Leave management is a system for scheduling employees and keeping the company running smoothly, even when multiple workers take vacation or sick days.
HR software watches out for conflicts and overtime issues that would be easy to overlook with an older paper or spreadsheet system. Leave requests managed fairly according to company policies and relevant laws.
Why is leave management important?
Without a leave management system, managers scramble to cover understaffed departments at the last minute. Productivity suffers and your more reliable employees are pressured into unnecessary overtime.
Effective leave management keeps shift schedules balanced by covering absences as early as possible. It keeps work productivity high and employees happy.
Check out these seven essential leave management tips:
Follow relevant labor laws
Research the applicable federal, state, and local labor laws in your industry. Legal requirements for employers vary widely in different parts of the country, and HR plays a major role in ensuring compliance.
Federal standards like the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) apply to qualified employees anywhere in America. If a qualified employee takes unpaid leave for a reason that’s covered by the FMLA (childbirth, illness, caring for an immediate family member, etc.)
- Their job at your company is protected for a certain number of weeks.
- If you have to replace the employee during their absence, then they should be offered an “equivalent job” with the same pay, benefits, and working conditions.
Most hourly employees are eligible for overtime pay if they work more than 40 hours a week. The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) includes regulations for overtime pay and the federal minimum wage, but state and local laws may have additional requirements.
Additionally, make sure your company classifies exempt and non-exempt employees correctly to avoid any issues with pay, overtime, PTO, and leave requirements.
Research and evaluate options
Your company has a lot of different choices when it comes to paid and unpaid leave policies. Some essential industries need at least a skeleton crew working 365 days a year. Most companies choose to recognize certain federal holidays by giving employees paid time off.
Your company is legally obligated to provide leave for circumstances like family emergencies, veteran caregivers, and jury duty. Paid parental leave allows your company to demonstrate a commitment to family values and work-life balance. Things like paternity leave have become increasingly popular, since many new fathers cannot afford to take unpaid leave.
Rather than designating “sick” days in your policy, you can encourage employees to request and schedule their unpaid time off as needed from a single pool of days. If your managers tend to reject time off requests, then employees may adapt by calling in “sick” without notice. Naturally, it’s easier to cover those shifts with advanced notice.
Incorporate time & attendance software
Find compatible software to track time, attendance, and PTO with a single system (like Netchex). You need to know when employees accumulate PTO, overtime pay, and other benefits.
Easy and accurate records will help managers and supervisors answer leave requests quickly. Some scheduling software even enables employees to request leave through their employee portal. Employee self-service portals should also allow for employees to check their hours and view PTO accrual.
Scheduling software allows you to keep the whole workforce on track, designating holidays and adjusting shifts accordingly. Minimize any disruption in productivity, even when crucial workers call in sick. Some businesses allow employees to swap shifts and cover absences, reducing the workload on management.
Develop and communicate leave management policy
Create a policy governing PTO, including how it’s accrued and how employees submit requests to use leave. You need a consistent policy for managing those leave requests, preventing favoritism and potential liability.
Will you have a “use it or lose it” policy for PTO, or will a certain number of hours roll over from year to year? You can encourage or even require employees to use a certain amount of PTO. Another popular option caps the maximum number of hours that can be collected.
Ultimately, your leave policy needs to be clear and consistent. PTO is one of the most important topics for your employee handbook. Whatever you decide, HR must communicate it clearly.
Develop a workplace culture where employees are encouraged to take advantage of leave appropriately. Without transparency, some employees may fear retaliation or resentment simply for taking advantage of their benefits.
Remain flexible and adaptable with policy
Stay open and receptive to changes, especially when implementing a new leave management policy. Some employees will have special circumstances that you didn’t consider. A manager may need additional options to prevent staffing shortages. When you make a policy change, communicate the news to staff immediately. Make relevant changes when you update the employee handbook, which should be revisited every few months.
Control absenteeism and tardiness
Your leave management system should include procedures to address employee behavior. An employee calling in sick may cause managers to scrabble, but it’s still better than a no-call-no-show. Habitual tardiness also affects morale and productivity. Before supervisors attempt disciplinary action on a one-on-one basis, make sure your company policy is prepared to manage tardiness and absenteeism fairly and consistently.
Consider employee well-being
It’s hard to find good help, and flexible leave policies can help you retain your best workers. Develop a leave management strategy that prevents burnout and supports employee mental health. Employees shouldn’t be forced to choose between the company and their families.
If you’re concerned about the cost of additional PTO and flexible leave policies for your current workforce, consider the alternative costs of recruiting and training new employees. Employers who prioritize their workers’ health and happiness can reduce the expense of turnover, as well as increase productivity.
Learn more about Netchex’s Time and Attendance solution:
Learn more about our Time and Attendance software (including leave management). Our Time and Attendance solution is fully integrated with our entire HR technology suite.
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