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HR Policy: Leave of Absence – Part I

 More and more companies are asking what their obligations are as an employer to extend benefits to an employee approved for a leave of absence. This depends on two factors; how does your company define leave of absence & do they currently have a policy pertaining to it.

For many small companies who don’t have an employee handbook or any policies in place, the development of such a task can become overwhelming.

There are several factors to consider when creating your Leave of Absence policy, Ensuring your company is in legal compliance is the highest priority for any employer. Some leaves are legally required and a thorough understanding of required provincial and federal leaves is needed before developing a policy.

In reviewing and developing a leave policy, your organization should consider these key components as part of the process;

Compliance with Federal Law

Several federal laws affect how you can treat employees in specific situations.

Compliance with Provincial Law

Organizations also need to address any provincial statutes that affect their employees. For example, in Alberta, labour codes state that an employer is not required to make any payments to the employee, or pay for any benefits, during maternity or parental leave. However, where an employer has benefits plans, such as sick leave for employees, there may be obligations that arise under human rights legislation.

Definition of Leave of Absence

Clearly define a leave of absence. Typically, a leave of absence is defined as any length of time spent away from employment. Your policy should define how the start and end date of the leave are to be determined. It should also address under what circumstances employees will be permitted to take a leave of absence. Some examples of leaves are; short or long term disability, maternity or parental leave, sabbatical leave, family & medical leave, personal leave, jury duty, bereavement, military, or voting leave.

Eligibility for Leave of Absence

List the requirements for an employee to be eligible for a leave of absence. This eligibility provision must meet the core philosophy of your organization and may vary depending on the type of leave.

Duration of Leave Requirements

Your policy should state time limits for all types of leaves. Perhaps you will assign different time limits for different leave requests. For example, will your policy limit a personal leave to one month, and a medical leave to three months?

Justification of Leave

Decide what information your organization will require in an employee’s request for a leave of absence. Will your organization require a medical certification before approving a family medical leave? For example, if an employee requests a personal leave of absence to deal with the sudden death of a spouse, what justification will you require in such a delicate situation?

Next week’s blog post (Part II) will provide more leave of absence considerations and cover such items as supervisory involvement, seniority & benefits, as well as termination while on leave.

Interested in learning about how the Silverberg Group can help write & create your Leave of Absence Policies? We want to be a part of your HR team. Email us.

Silverberg Group specializes in employee benefits consulting for companies of all sizes, and is Alberta owned & operated. From employee benefits programs to executive packages, we translate industry information into innovative options and solutions that best suit your organizational goals. Since 1996, over 800 clients have put their confidence in our industry expertise and our exceptional service. Let us become part of your company’s human resources team.

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