The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA) was passed to offer employees at firms with at least 50 employees as many as 12 weeks of unpaid leave due to illness, an ill family member or to care for a newborn or adopted child. It has helped families across the country take the time off they badly need.

Managing leave must be done properly within your organization to ensure not only federal compliance, but also to make sure everyone's time is being tracked properly. Over the decades that FMLA has been in place, many leave management programs have emerged to help.

A leave management system can simplify the work for employers while ensuring that FMLA is administered properly and effectively. That, in turn, can reduce costs throughout the organization.

Family Leave, Recruiting and Retention

Many employers have found that providing support for family leave is an important benefit to attract and retain good employees. While the FMLA requires only unpaid time off and job protection, as HRO Today notes, offering employees paid leave can result in happier and healthier workers. Time off to care for family is required for many employers and essential to employee morale. Additionally, "these policies can help ensure workers take the time needed to recharge their batteries to remain productive and avoid burn-out," says HRO Today.

Although the FMLA covers many types of leave, such as care for elderly parents or personal health care, it's most commonly associated with maternity and paternity leave after the birth or adoption of a child. This is a key event in the life of a family, and employees tend to be grateful for any support they receive from employers.

Employees should be reminded that FMLA covers more than maternity and paternity leave, too. Knowing that leave is available can simplify their lives — and the lives of their managers — over time.

Offering paid leave is a great way to support employees, but it's not the only way. Clear communication of policies and management systems that smooth the break for the employee taking leave and those who are still in the office can do a lot to assure employees they won't be penalized on the job for taking time off.

Leave Management Smooths the Process

A leave management system can make it easy for employees to request time off. It can help ensure that legal requirements are met and that the organization's policies are enforced, preventing subjective decisions that can cause headaches down the line. It can also help with scheduling and notifications to others on the work team.

There are many payoffs to effective management of employee time off. Clear communication of policies and expectations can reduce legal headaches. Assistance with scheduling and notifications of the work teams helps a department maintain productivity when an employee is out. The alternative may seem to be keeping an employee on the job, but the reality is that employees who don't feel their leave was handled fairly may look for other jobs. Given the cost of legal work and the effort required to hire new workers, leave management has many financial benefits.

Maintaining Integrity for the Program

Because few employers offer pay for FLMA, abuses aren't common — but they do happen and can be demoralizing, especially to employees who haven't needed to take advantage of FMLA. As the Society for Human Resource Management notes, monitoring abuse is important. For example, if your scheduling system shows that people are most likely to take sick leave coinciding with long holiday weekends, it could be worth investigating.

FMLA is a powerful benefit for employees, and effective management can enhance an organization's reputation as a responsible employer of choice. It helps retain good employees while making sure work gets done.

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Tags: leave management FLMA family leave