Have you pondered the question from yesterday’s post? Agree with me that there are things you can do and things you should do? That should do includes approaching FMLA with come compassion and not being super strict with FMLA’s limitations, right?
Yesterday’s post covered some of my tips for the start of FMLA. Here are a few more for during leave.
Preparation for leave is essential. Hopefully, the employee knew he needed to go on leave and was able to prepare by giving his manager his passwords, updating her on the status of projects, and plan to turn over work. Sometimes, this isn’t the case. An accident, premature delivery, or quick onset of a serious illness can take the employee out of the workplace leaving a manager without the benefit of the advanced notice. What do you do in these emergency situations? Leave the employee alone. The employee is already ill or injured himself, worried about a family member, or facing the crushing reality of being a parent to a new baby. The status of the sales agreement with customer XYZ is not top of mind.
Let technology help you with not knowing what’s going on. Get access to email and other systems to help piece together the status of projects without bothering the employee. Need a password? Work with the software vendor or your own IT team to recover a password if necessary. Change permissions so the manager or another team member can see things. Again, don’t bother the employee.
If the leave is intermittent and the employee’s need for leave could come as a surprise on any given day, plan for what that looks like. How will the employee handle the sudden need to be off? Come to an agreement with the employee about his work when this happens. Does this mean the employee spends the last 10 minutes of each day sending a quick email on the status of things? Maybe. (Would that be a nice thing to have anyway even if he didn’t need leave? Yep!) Setting expectations is a manager’s job. If the manager laments every time Juan takes an intermittent day, well then it’s the manager’s problem for not preparing for this – not Juan’s. (I know, I know, this isn’t a great one-liner to share with the manager, but you all are good coaches, you’ll soften the message.)
Don’t surveil the employee. Seriously. Don’t send someone out to watch the employee’s house to see if he is cleaning his gutters or fixing a deck. Don’t monitor his social media accounts for signs of a vacation. Assume the employee needed the leave and is using the leave within his or his family member’s health care provider’s instructions. If something fishy starts happening, you’ll learn about it. Don’t waste your time and resources beforehand.
When the employee is ready to come back to work, don’t forget the ADA. Yes, the ADA can be an even bigger headache for employers. Yes, the Seventh Circuit recently held employers might not have to give more leave than the FMLA requires. However, the ADA places a reasonableness standard on employers. Employers are required to consider reasonable accommodations, including leave, for each requesting employee on a case-by-case basis. Don’t get consumed with “well if we give it to Larry, we’ll have to give it to everyone else.” Remember, the ADA requires case-by-case analysis. For more return-to-work tips, check here.
Lastly, remember that communication is really important at the end of leave. You may want to know if any restrictions are necessary. You may want more confirmation as to what day. For requests like these, remember K8’s rule of three. Ask at least three times in writing before you assume the employee is abandoning his job.
I get that the FMLA is tough. I get that it can be frustrating for HR and managers. However, it can be a godsend for employees. It’s supposed to give them peace of mind that their job will wait for them if they need to be out for a bit. Use this fact as a part of your compassion and empathy game. The employee will thank you for it.