How to Handle an Employee's Leave of Absence

How to Handle an Employee's Leave of Absence. Employees now are covered under federal legislation that allows for an unpaid leave in the event of a health crisis or an addition to the family. Understanding these laws - and communicating them to employees - is vital if work is to run smoothly.

Familiarize yourself with the ins and outs of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).

Realize that the FMLA applies to all companies with 50 or more employees within a 75-mile radius and that all employees who have worked at least 1,250 hours in a 12-month period are eligible for 12 weeks unpaid leave if they meet one of the four following conditions: birth of a child, adoption of a child, a serious health condition or a serious health condition of someone for whom they are the primary caretaker.

Ascertain the employee's eligibility for FMLA leave by getting certification from a physician.

Remember, both men and women are eligible for FMLA leave when a child is born or adopted.

Know that although the leave is unpaid you must continue to maintain benefits, such as health insurance, although paid holidays and accrual of vacation time is not required.

Recognize that the employee on leave is still responsible for the payment of any premiums on benefits such as health insurance.

Understand that the 12 weeks of FMLA leave need not be taken consecutively. An employee being treated for chemotherapy, for example, may take his or her leave in small increments over an extended period of time.

Establish a clear policy on leaves that are not mandated by law. Many company offer three to five days leave for bereavement. If you choose to do this, state so clearly in your policy manual and apply it across the board.

Use a temporary employment service, if possible, to replace your employee. Although it may seem more expensive at first, in the end you'll save money by not having to pay unemployment, taxes and worker's compensation.

Consider a temporary employment contract with an independent contractor if a temporary employment service is not feasible.


  • Although key employees, such as chief executive officers, are not covered by FMLA laws, this category is tightly defined and applies to few employees. Consider working the matter of leave with key employees at the time of hire and making it part of the employment contract.


  • Different states have different mandatory leave laws for matters such as jury duty, voting, military duty and pregnancy. Make sure you know what your state requires.

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