HR Policy: Leave of Absence – Part III
Federal and provincial laws and possibly union contracts will dictate in which situations you must hold employees’ jobs while they are on a leave of absence. Your policy should address your obligations under the law or as determined by a union contract. The policy should also address when an organization is not required to re-employ an individual. Finally, the policy should address the requirements an employee must meet to return to work.
Your policy should state when an excused absence for illness or injury becomes an official leave of absence. Again, this line may be dictated by provincial or federal law.
Most organizations incorporate their leave of absence policy in the employee handbook. It is a good practice to establish a procedure for distributing the leave policy and verifying your employees have received it. Most employers have experienced the chronically absent employee. Before taking disciplinary steps in these situations, the employer should refer to the established company leave policy. The policy should address all types of absences (sick leave, bereavement, and so on).
Your policy should include a statement that medical information obtained to verify a leave request will be confidential. These records could be subject to the Privacy Act and, therefore, should be protected.
This is a very sensitive topic and having a thorough understanding of labour laws is essential. If your employee does not return to work in the time allotted, your policy should specify when the leave will formally end and the employee’s active employment status will terminate. Once you terminate active employment, depending on your life and disability plan provisions, you need to disclose portability and conversion options. Also, if your former employee is disabled at the time you terminate active employment status, you will want to inform him or her of any waiver of premium provisions in your life insurance contract. In addition, you should maintain records of all the forms and information you send to former employees. Clearly outlining your obligations to former employees can provide support in situations that may arise shortly after termination. Well-documented communication can prevent law suits.