Personal Leave

6 Steps to Create a Leave Policy

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

Take care of your people and protect your business

Are you struggling to keep track of all the different kinds of leave you offer your employees? One type of leave is personal leave, which will be discussed in this article.

What Is Personal Leave?

Personal leave is time provided by an employer for employees who are experiencing unplanned circumstances that require a leave of absence.

Why Is Offering Personal Leave to Employees  Important?

An employee wants to work for an employer who cares for them and is understanding when they need to take a leave of absence. Leaves of absence can often be unexpected, which is why employers should be considerate of their employees. Here are a few other reasons why offering personal leave is important.

  • Employee retention. If an employee feels their employer doesn’t care for them, they are more likely to leave. Life is full of unforeseen circumstances and necessary leave of absences, such as going to the hospital or a family member getting sick. If an employer doesn’t offer flexibility to employees with leaves of absence when needed, employees often look for another job with employers who are sympathetic during a trying situation.
  • Gives the company more control. When a company provides leave of absence guidelines to employees in their company policy, they can set rules on how leaves are handled. This gives employers more control in leave of absence situations, as opposed to having nothing set in stone and being at the mercy of potential lawsuits if employees feel they aren’t being treated fairly. Having personal leave policies in place protects employers.
  • Compliance. There are some laws in place that require employers to provide employees leave of absence depending on the type of personal leave. Employers who do not provide employees with personal leave might be liable for potential lawsuits. Personal leave policies help employers remain compliant.

Laws Regarding Personal Leave

When considering what leaves of absence to offer to employees, an employer should be aware of all laws regarding personal leave. Here are some of those laws.

FMLA (Family Medical Leave Act)

This is the most commonly used leave for employees. This is offered to employees when they need to take time off for specific family or medical reasons. This unpaid leave lasts for up to 12 weeks and requires employers to continue providing company sponsored benefits to the employee during this time. The employee is still required to pay their portion of the premiums as well.

Some states offer paid family leave. For more information, refer to your state’s department of labor office, which can be found here.

Organizations are required to offer this leave to employees if they employ 50 or more employees within 75 miles. An employee is eligible for this kind of leave if they have worked for the employer for at least 12 months or at least 1,250 hours over the past 12 months.

FLSA (Fair Labor Standards Act)

The Fair Labor Standards Act covers a lot of labor laws. One includes that employers are not required to pay employees for time off, such as personal leave, vacations, sick leave, holidays, or bereavement leave. While most businesses will offer some kind of pay for different kinds of leave, it is not required by law.

USERRA (Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994)

USERRA is federal law regarding military and military family leave. USERRA requires businesses to provide leaves of absence to employees who enter military service while employed and remain employed upon conclusion of their service. USERRA applies to all employers regardless of size, and all employees are eligible regardless of tenure or position.

USERRA protects 4 key benefits for employees while on leave. It protects employees from discrimination based on their military status or obligations, the right to re-employment upon conclusion of military service, protection from termination for a period of time after returning from service, and certain rights in connection with pensions and other employee benefit plans. If the military leave is less than 90 days, the employee is entitled to their same position or the position they would have had if not for leaving. If the leave is more than 90 days, an employer can consider other positions that are close to the job they previously performed. This principle is called the “escalator principle.”

State Sick Pay Laws

Some states require employers to offer employees paid personal leave, such as sick pay. It is important to know where your employees reside so you know if offering paid sick days is required.

The Difference Between Personal Leave and Other Leaves of Absence

Differentiating between personal leave and other leave of absences can be difficult, as there is a lot of crossover and it can vary from company to company. In general, these are some ways to tell if something counts as personal leave.

Medical Reasons

Typically, any kind of leave that deals with sickness — either the employee’s or the employee’s family member — is a personal leave. Documentation is often required for the employee to go on personal leave and then to return.

Flexibility

Personal leave typically allows for a bit more flexibility than other kinds of leave that require advance notification. With some personal leave, such as pregnancy, employees are able to notify employers in advance of the time they will miss. However, sometimes emergencies occur and personal leave is needed as soon as possible. Personal leave provides this flexibility.

Employee Choice

Personal leave is when an employee decides to go on leave with the employer’s approval and is always the employee’s choice. There are other leaves of absence when an employee is put on leave by the employer’s choice, such as when an employee is suspended, generally without pay, due to inappropriate activity while an investigation is done. But personal leave is always initiated and chosen by the employee, not the employer.

How to Create a Personal Leave Policy

When writing a personal leave policy, it is important to include every potential situation. An employee should be able to go to the personal leave policy and know how they should go about their personal leave based on what is outlined in the policy. Here are some steps to create the policy.

Step 1: Know the Laws

When writing any policy, be aware of any laws that apply. Some of the laws regarding personal leave have already been outlined, such as FMLA, FLSA and USERRA. In addition, know what is required by your state. Before you write your policy, you need to know what legal parameters you must follow when offering your employees personal leave.

Step 2: Understand How Benefits Will Be Impacted

Most employees going on leave are concerned about how their benefits will be impacted. This should clearly be outlined in your personal policy. Most employers stop PTO from accruing while employees are on personal leave. Regarding health insurance, typically an employee’s benefits are protected for up to 12 weeks through FMLA.

Step 3: Purchase Insurance Coverage

Obtaining different types of insurance can help offset the cost of employee leave. Insurance such as worker’s compensation or disability insurance can provide benefits for employees while they are on leave. This might not be the best fit for every employer depending on the type of industry you are in or your company size, but it is something to consider.

Step 4: Outline Different Leaves in Your Policy

After understanding personal leave laws and how they might impact you and your employees, you will want to outline the different types of leave in your policy. As an employer, you can decide on a fixed number of leaves and how often they can occur, or have an unlimited number of leaves. Whatever the case, outline the rules for each type of leave and how long it can last.

Here are some of the most common kinds of personal leave (though you can consider others): sick leave, maternity leave, paternity leave, bereavement leave, sabbatical leave and unpaid leave. It is recommended that you include in your policy that if a certain kind of leave is not outlined in the policy, an employee can work with the HR department to decide if their leave falls under an established category or if a different leave can be provided.

Step 5: Outline Rules for Each Kind of Leave

After you outline each kind of leave, define the rules for them. The rules might be the same for each kind of leave, but generally they will all vary by the type. Here are some rules to consider for each kind of leave.

  • Eligibility. Who qualifies for this kind of leave?
  • Approval. How long is the approval process? Who needs to approve the leave?
  • Length of leave. How long does the leave last?
  • Payment. Is the employee eligible for any kind of payment during their leave?
  • Benefits. How are benefits impacted during leave?
  • Documentation. What documentation is required while the employee is on leave?
  • Return to work. What will be required for the employee to return to work?

Step 6: Consult the Legal Team

Once you have written your leave policy with the different types of leaves and corresponding rules, you will want to consult a legal team, whether your own or an outside legal team, to confirm that your leave policy is legally compliant.

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Questions You’ve Asked Us About Personal Leave

Employees are not required to give a reason for personal leave. However, depending on the length of leave, a note from a doctor with an explanation on why an employee needs a leave of absence might be required to approve of the personal leave.

This depends on what type of personal leave. Typically, the longest personal leave offered is FMLA, which gives employees up to 12 weeks off. 

Generally personal leave is considered unpaid time off. However, an employee can choose to use some of their paid time off while on personal leave. 

Tanner has over 4 years of HR professional experience in various fields of HR. He has experience in hiring, recruiting, employment law, unemployment, onboarding, outboarding, and training to name a few. Most of his experience comes from working in the Professional Employer and Staffing Industries. He has a passion for putting people in the best position to succeed and really tries to understand the different backgrounds people come from.

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