Yesterday I attended day one of the Alabama SHRM Conference. The pre-con session on employee leave management was an interesting one for me, and I quickly saw three key areas where many companies can trip up if managers are not properly prepared. Just a word of warning–none of them are a quick fix. They require training, patience, and more training.

HR’s not the center of the employee leave management universe

employee leave managementWith the managers on the front lines with regard to employee communication, your organization can be in trouble before you ever know what hit you. It’s critical to train managers on what Family Medical Leave Act requirements are and how those should be routed to you or the appropriate person for employee leave management purposes. You should also cover the other key legal areas (Americans with Disabilities Act, etc.) so they know to come to you whenever one of these potentially sticky areas presents itself.

If you assume managers will know what to do, you’re kidding yourself.

Handling the “favorite” child

Another discussion I had today was around ADA accommodations for employees who request them. I think we understand the implications of offering accommodations, and some managers even seem to have a grasp on that side of the equation. I think one of the challenges that spins out of that is how the other employees see the accommodation.

Maybe someone gets an office on the first floor because they can’t climb stairs. Maybe they get a nicer chair because they have back issues. Whatever the case, it’s important to head off any commentary from the unaffected employees if it crops up.

All the work put in to provide accommodations and assist the employee can be undone by insensitive comments from other peers. I’d hope that nobody would say anything, but I’ve been around long enough to know it’s always a possibility. Situations where people think someone else is getting a benefit they don’t have, even when it’s related to employee leave management, tend to cloud peoples’ judgement at times.

Changing the mindset

Picture yourself as a supervisor with an employee on intermittent FMLA status. That’s a pretty typical employee leave management situation. When it comes time to rate employee performance, how are you going to keep the leave separate from the actual performance on the job? If I was in that situation, I admit that it would be a difficult proposition.

I think supervisors need support and encouragement to continue focusing on the work accomplishments and getting people back up to full productivity, not looking at what is not getting done due to someone being on leave for some protected status.

It would be very difficult not to, in some corner of your mind, consider the employees on FMLA as slackers compared to the rest of the staff. In this example you can substitute USERRA or ADA just as easily. I think it’s important to get it out there and off the table as soon as possible when discussing with managers.

“I know Katy’s leave is making it tough on you guys to get your deliverables completed on time, but let’s focus on the positive side of things and work to get her back up to speed as quickly and safely as possible. She’s a good worker and wants to get back to work full speed as soon as she can.”

Simple, easy, but probably a rare conversation.

Again, these are only a few of the key areas that I’ve seen can become issues if not dealt with early in the process. Have you seen these play out well (or not so well) in your own organization? Care to share any best practices around employee leave management?