Leave of Absence Policy: Absence Types and Legal Considerations

A leave of absence policy clearly outlines the various types of leave offered by a company, including time off for sickness, medical appointments, and statutory or contractual holiday entitlements. As an employer, it is important to create a clearly detailed policy and communicate it to all staff. It must take into account all types of leave of absence and comply with all federal and state requirements.

In this post we will outline all leave of absence types and explain when employees are entitled to a paid leave of absence. We will also look at how to write a leave of absence policy letter and what you need to include in your vacation request form. 

Employee Leave of Absence Meaning

A leave of absence (LOA) is an employee request for time away from work. It can be mandatory, governed by federal and state laws, or voluntary, governed by a company’s internal policies. LOAs can be paid or unpaid, and they can be requested for a variety of reasons:

  • Personal or family illness or mental health issues
  • Medical appointments
  • Vacation
  • Statutory or contractual holiday entitlements 
  • Bereavement leave
  • Jury duty
  • Pregnancy
  • Military service
  • Voting
  • Personal reasons

A leave of absence policy is a clear set of established guidelines and procedures for managing these employee absences. It details the various types of leave that employees are entitled to, if time off is accrued or assigned, and what the limits and requirements are. It also outlines how leave can be requested, when employees will be paid for absences, and how time off is monitored and tracked. 

Leave of Absence Laws 

There are various laws that you must take into account when you write your absence policy. This will ensure compliance and a federal and state level of the leave of absence laws, and help you avoid any potential employee disputes. 

  • Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA): most employers with over 50 employees must provide long-term unpaid sick leave to eligible employees (up to 12 weeks off in a 12 month period). FMLA leave can be requested for childbirth or adoption, serious health conditions, or caring for a family member. 
  • Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA): prohibits discrimination against employees with physial or mental disabilities. Employees can request ADA leave for medical absences related to their disabilities.
  • Workers’ compensation laws
  • Regulations relating to wages, hours, and overtime, such as The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). 

PTO Requests

Paid Time Off (PTO) refers to an absence where an employee is still paid by the company. This can include sickness, vacation time, and personal time off. Paid time off can be mandatory or offered at the discretion of the company. Many companies offer a generous PTO policy to promote a good work-life balance and encourage employee wellness and loyalty. 

A PTO request could be one of the following:

  • Vacation leave. As a company you must decide how many days of paid vacation you will offer, and whether they will be assigned at the start of the year, or accrued throughout the year. Most employers offer full time employees at least 2 weeks (10 days) of paid vacation.
  • Family and medical leave. Eligible employees are entitled to time off under the FMLA. Employees may also be eligible for injury or illness-related leave under the ADA. 
  • Many companies also include personal time off in their PTO policy, although there is no legal requirement to do so.

Employees should use a leave of absence letter to request paid time off. The serves as a written record of the notice they are giving.

Leave of Absence Types 

Aside from the PTO requests we have just seen, employees can also request the following types of leave of absence:

  • Jury duty leave. Although there is no federal law regulating this, most states have laws prohibiting employers from penalizing employees for serving on a jury and ensuring job restoration (returning to the same duties). Eight states have also made it mandatory for employees to be paid for jury duty leave: Alabama, Colorado, Connecticut, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Nebraska, New York, and Tennessee.
  • Voting leave. There is no federal right to take time off work to vote, but most states have laws requiring employers to provide employees some voting leave benefits. These benefits could be paid or unpaid.
  • Bereavement leave. Only one state, Oregon, has passed a law requiring employers to provide bereavement leave. However, many employers choose to include compassionate leave in their paid or unpaid leave policies.
  • Voluntary leave. There is no federal or state requirement to offer paid or unpaid voluntary leave. Employers decide whether to grant a request for voluntary leave according to their internal policies and procedures. Many companies will offer a certain number of days for personal reasons or events such as moving house, although this is usually unpaid.
  • Parental leave. In most states it is granted at the discretion of the employer. Some companies offer it, others don’t. Exceptions to this include California, New Jersey, and Rhode Island, where parental leave is required by law.

✔️ Here is a complete list of types of time off requests and leave of absence types.

Tracking Employee Absences

Time tracking involves monitoring the hours that each employee has worked, taking into account arrival and departure times, breaks, overtime, and absences, for whatever reason. This includes all forms of paid and unpaid leave. The data you collect will help your company analyze and reduce absenteeism and boost productivity.

You should detail how you track employee absences in your policy. You could also explain what metrics and indicators you use to measure absences, such as the Bradford Factor. 

Employee Absence Tracker 

An effective absence tracking system can help you track employee absences and ensure compliance with all regulations and internal policies. Implementing the right absence management software in your company can:

  • Simplify your processes
  • Decrease absences
  • Minimize errors 
  • Track absences on a calendar
  • Recognize the various types of absence
  • Support return to work interviews
  • Provide HR staff with easy access to data
  • Reduce the cost of managing absences 
  • Give employees access to their sick days and leave entitlements
  • Identify absence trends
  • Help you calculate and reduce the true cost of absences in your company. 

Employee Vacation Request Form

The final thing to consider is an employee vacation request form. This should be specific to your business, but there are a couple of general guidelines that will help you create an effective vacation request form:

  • As employees to complete the request form and return it to their manager for approval within an established notice period.
  • You should request the start and end date of the period of leave on the form.
  • Keep a copy of all written documentation in case of any future disputes.
  • Update the form and your general leave of absence policy on a regular basis to ensure state and federal compliance.
  • You could also stream your vacation request process and manage your employee vacation request form with Factorial’s holiday software through the document management feature. 

Manage Employee Leave of Absences Easily with Factorial.

Written by Cat Symonds

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