Your complete guide to employee time off

  • Last Updated : August 23, 2023
  • 5 Min Read
Understanding different types of leaves

Time off is an inevitable aspect of an organization, and it takes up a lot of time for the HR department. Employees have personal commitments, and taking time off is one method of balancing their professional and personal lives. The HR department must ensure that their organization provides leave and that their policy complies with federal and local regulations. When employees receive their entitled time off benefits without any difficulties, they will be motivated to work harder for your organization. As an HR manager, you must handle time off requests and ensure that your organization is never understaffed due to time off. In the following sections, we have put together the different types of mandatory and voluntary leave to help you manage your employees’ time off requests effectively.

  • FMLA 

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) entitles employees to take 12 weeks of unpaid time off for personal and medical reasons. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, only employees who have completed more than a year in your organization are entitled to this leave. Also, employees should have worked for at least 1,250 hours during those 12 months. Any organization that has more than 50 employees should provide family and medical leave. Employees can take a leave of absence under FMLA to:

  • Battle a chronic health condition

  • Take care of family members, including a spouse, children, or parents, who suffer from a serious illness

  • Take care of certain issues caused due to their family member’s role in the military or to care for family members who suffer from illnesses and injuries related to military service

  • Take care of their infants or to prepare for their baby’s birth

When your employees apply for time off under FMLA:

  1. Ensure that their request is consistent with the laws
  2. Ask for a medical certificate
  3. Make your managers aware of the importance of FMLA
  4. Document the whole process
  • Jury duty

Jury duty time off allows employees to take leave for serving on a jury. The trial may take anywhere from a few days to a few months and, during this period, the juror has no choice but to miss work. Employers are required to allow employees to take time off to perform this civic duty. Federal law doesn’t require employers to pay their employees during this period. However, a few states including Arizona, New York, and Tennessee, require employers to pay for jury duty time off. It’s better to check with your state laws to ensure compliance. Here are some ways to manage jury duty leave effectively:

  1. Introduce a policy that requires employees to apply for jury duty time off before a certain period

  2. Understand the circumstances of your employees

  3. Check your state jury duty time off laws

  4. Encourage your employees to document the whole process

  5. Ensure that your organization’s productivity is not lost

  • Military time off

According to the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA), citizens who provide military service can quit the military and return to their previous job. This is done to ensure that veterans get the opportunity to continue their work without any downsides. Probationary employees can also apply for military time off as the law does not specify the minimum period of employment. Military time off can be paid or unpaid and can last up to a maximum of five years. Employees are expected to inform their employers as early as possible. Upon returning, employees should provide evidence for their military service, and they should have also been discharged without any issues.

  • Bereavement time off

Bereavement time off allows employees to take leave of absence when somebody very close to them has passed away. At present, there are no federal laws that mandate employers to provide bereavement time off. Many organizations are providing bereavement time off for their employees out of good will. Because of that, the duration of time off and payment during this leave is dependent on the organization’s policies. However, many organizations allow employees to take time off for a minimum of three days. Here are some tips to manage employee bereavement leave:

  1. Define the bereavement leave policy according to your organizational policy

  2. Make your employees aware of the leave policy well in advance

  3. Be sensitive towards employees who take bereavement time off

  4. Give your employees some time to get back to their normal selves

  5. Educate your managers about bereavement leave and the need to be sensitive towards employees

  • Sabbatical 

This voluntary time off policy allows employees to take a leave of absence from work for between a month to a year. Under sabbatical time off, employees take breaks to study, travel, volunteer, or rest. Employers are expected to hold the position of these employees until they return to work. According to research conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management, 15% of organizations offer sabbatical time off for employees. Out of that 15%, 10% of them provide unpaid sabbatical and 5% of them provide paid sabbatical. Many organizations have started to offer sabbatical leave to fight employee burnout. If you intend to offer sabbatical leave, define the eligibility criteria clearly. For instance, you cannot afford to allow a new hire to take a year’s time off.

  • Maternity and paternity leave

Employees are allowed to take a leave of absence from work to bond with their newborn babies. In the US, employers are not required to provide maternity and paternity leave to their employees. Many states, including California, New York, and New Jersey, offer paid maternity leave to their employees. Many employees will take an unpaid leave of absence for 12 weeks under FMLA. The difference between maternity and paternity leave is that female employees can use the time off even before the birth of the baby, while many organizations allow male employees to take time off only after their baby’s birth. Regardless of the laws, many organizations are providing maternity and paternity leave. As this time off is vital for your employees, keep a plan ready to try and make the situation as easy as possible for your employee and your organization. Make sure that you communicate with employees planning to take this type of leave.

  • Disability leave

The main purpose of disability leave is to ensure that employees with disabilities are not discriminated against when it comes to employment opportunities. Disabilities here refer to physical and mental ailments that restrict an employee’s ability to carry out major activities including walking, hearing, breathing, or learning. They can take a leave of absence from work to receive treatment or rehabilitation under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Organizations that have 15 or more employees are mandated to provide time off under the ADA act. The period of time off is dependent on the situation and the health condition of the employee. Employees should also be paid during this absence.

Time off is essential for your employees. Managing time off effectively can improve employee satisfaction and morale and reduce unscheduled absenteeism. Also, your organization’s time off policy may be used by your candidates to evaluate your job offer, so it’s important to create a proper one that complies with federal and state laws. Using Zoho People’s time off management system, it’s easy to ensure that your employees comply with your organization’s leave policies. You can take complete control over the time off system and customize the time off policies according to your company culture.

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  • tarika

    Content Specialist at Zoho People

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