Employee leave of absence can be a pricey, yet necessary affair.
Imagine you’re in the busiest period of the year, whether it be products flying off the shelves, or clients coming in bunches. What can HR possibly do if certain employees want to take a leave of absence?
You may need the employees to keep the company going at full speed, but what about employee welfare? After all, your employees are crucial to the success of the company.
It is important to remember that there are laws in place to protect employees from being worked to the bone. This is where HR needs to step in and make a decision that would balance both the company’s needs and the employee’s well-being.
It may be difficult to decipher whether to approve or deny an employee leave of absence, but there are some key points to keep in mind that can help make the decision easier.
In this article, we will discuss the typical approval process for leave, the different types of employee absences, and whether they should be approved and disapproved.
The typical approval process for leave
The approval process for employee leave of absence can be found in the company’s policy manual. It is usually a standard procedure that must be adhered to in order for the leave to be approved.
The first thing that HR will do is check if the leave complies with the company’s rules and regulations. If it does, they will then check to see if the leave is justified.
This is where things can get tricky — sometimes, managers may not be able to give a clear answer as to whether the leave is justified or not. In such cases, HR will have to make a decision based on the information they have.
If the leave is approved, HR will then process the necessary paperwork and inform the employee of their approval.
If the leave is disapproved, HR will also inform the employee of their decision and the reasons for it.
Types of employee absences
There are three types of employee absences:
1. Scheduled: planned absences that the employee has requested in advance, and have usually been approved by HR already.
These can include vacation days when the employee may want to focus on their wellbeing and take a well-earned breather.
Doctor’s appointments and taking care of a family member are some other reasons for taking scheduled leave.
2. Unscheduled: occurs when the employee has not requested time off, but it is deemed necessary by HR (e.g. medical leave).
This leave is unfortunately quite common and occurs in situations where the employee simply cannot help it, such as bereavement leave.
3. No-show: an employee simply doesn’t show up for work without any prior notice or explanation.
It can also occur when an employee tells HR why they didn’t come to work too late — when they should have done so before.
When can HR approve an employee leave of absence?
The first question you need to ask is whether the leave of absence is for a good reason. If it’s a genuine case, such as an illness or taking care of a sick family member, then HR can approve the leave.
HR must also refer back to the company’s policy manual to ensure that the leave being requested adheres to company instructions.
If this is the case, then they can approve the leave using the typical approval process for leave detailed above.
Some companies have HR-related software that can speed up the approval process. This can be especially useful for larger companies that may have many hundreds of employees requesting leave at certain peak times.
It is in these cases we must ensure the company continues running and there are enough employees to do so. Hence in these situations, the approval of leave must be handled very carefully.
When can HR disapprove an employee leave of absence?
There are several reasons why HR may disapprove an employee leave of absence. Some of the key reasons are detailed below:
Lack of staff
The most common reason is if the company is short-staffed. If you’re in a period where you cannot afford to have someone away, then it’s likely that HR will not approve of the leave. This can occur most commonly in seasonal businesses, where peak periods require many employees.
The employee takes leave at a critical point in time
Another common reason is if the leave will have a negative impact on the business.
For example, if an employee in a critical role wants to take a leave of absence, it may jeopardize the success of an important project. In this case, HR may disapprove the leave in order to protect the company’s interests.
Think of a project on the home straight. If the project lead wants to go off on a holiday at this point, it would put the project in a terrible place. HR must intervene and take appropriate action.
Employee goes over the assigned limit
HR has every right to deny an employee leave of absence if the employee has already taken a lot of time off and this additional leave would put them over the limit.
Companies have a set number of days employees can take leave for a reason, so breaking this rule would result in your leave of absence being disapproved.
For employees, avoid this situation by planning the bulk of your leave in advance and booking this in with HR early on. Make sure to leave a few days in reserve in case of emergencies or an odd day off you may want.
This ensures you don’t go over the limit, and importantly — that you don’t go under the limit. You are given a set number of days off for a reason, so take them.
In fact, some studies show that a significant number of employees don’t take their full holiday entitlement. Keep on top of your leave and make sure this isn’t you!
Leave of absence is too long
If an employee requests a leave of absence that is too long, HR may deny the request. This is because the company needs the employee and cannot afford to have them gone for long periods of time.
For example, some companies may require additional notice for leave longer than a certain period of time. I.e. If you want to request leave for longer than 2 weeks, you have to seek permission from the director of the company.
Top tips for HR to communicate well with employees
Communications between HR and employees can often be a touchy subject, as these conversations tend to happen at difficult points in time for the worker (being laid off, leave being disapproved).
Hence it’s important for the HR department to communicate as well as they possibly can. Here are some top tips for them to do so:
1. Define the roles and responsibilities of HR
The first step is to make sure that everyone in the company understands what HR’s role is. This will help to avoid any confusion or frustration later on down the line.
You want to avoid situations where employees get angry with HR for not approving leave when the employee should know that HR is simply following company guidelines. They simply cannot override the senior management and grant impromptu leave whenever they want.
2. Build a relationship of trust with employees
If you want employees to feel comfortable coming to you with any problems or concerns, you need to build a relationship of trust.
This can be done by being approachable and open-minded, and by always acting in the best interests of the employees. As a member of HR, it is crucial to stay friendly and calm during conversations with employees. Sometimes it can get tense, so try and keep a cool head to ease the situation.
3. Keep communication channels open
Make sure that there are plenty of channels through which employees can communicate with HR, such as email, phone, or in person.
This will make it easier for employees to get in touch when they need to. You can ensure that you are available to answer questions, give feedback and hear suggestions.
4. Respond to queries promptly
It’s important to respond quickly and efficiently to any queries or requests from employees. This will show that you’re organized and on top of things, as well as help to build trust.
Approving and disapproving an employee leave of absence can be a difficult dilemma to solve for many businesses, but luckily there are some guidelines to help make the decision easier.
Check out some of the reasons to disapprove leave, as well as some of the reasons where approving leave is absolutely fine.
The way this is communicated is also important, so have a browse at the top tips HR can liaise with employees to keep relations smooth.
In conclusion, make the right decision regarding an employee leave of absence, communicate it well — and all will be dandy!